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"Dawson's vast erudition, his historical intuition, his profound understanding of human nature, 
and his vision of Western culture as a living and dynamic entity, make him an essential starting 
point in the study — and understanding of — the spiritual tradition at the root of Western culture. 
Without this, all else that follows in Western history is incomprehensible." (Araceli Duque) 

"The greatest English-speaking Catholic historian of the twentieth century." (Daniel Callahan, 
Harvard Theological Review) 

"One of the foremost prophets of our age. (Herbert Musurillo, S. J.) 
Selected and edited by Darrell Wright, 2008 


Introduction, by John J. Mulloy 

1. Civilization and Morals 

2. Vitality or Standardization in Culture 

3. The Patriarchal Family in History 

4. Stages in Mankind's Religious Experience 

5. The Christian View of History 

6. History and the Christian Revelation 

7. Christianity and Contradiction in History 

8. The Kingdom of God and History 

9. St. Augustine and the City of God 

10. On Spiritual Intuition in Christian Philosophy 

11. The Catholic Church 

12. Christianity as the Soul of the West 

13. Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind 

14. The Papacy and the Modern World 

15. The Nature and Destiny of Man 

16. The Study of Christian Culture 

17. Cultural Polarity and Religious Schism: 
An Analysis of the Causes of Schism 

18. Continuity and Development in Christopher Dawson's Thought, 
by John J. Mulloy 

Select Bibliography 


by John J. Mulloy, from Dynamics of World History (1958), pp. iii-xi. 

Two hundred years is a relatively brief space in the history of 
mankind upon the globe. But in that time a greater change has 
taken place in man's ways of living than in all the preceding cen- 
turies of recorded human existence. The inventions introduced by 
the scientific revolution of the past two centuries have trans- 
formed the face of nature and of human society, and in all the five 
continents people are being moulded by the standardizing in- 
fluences of a technological civilization. Nor is it likely that the 
present movement of rapid social change will in any degree abate 
its speed. It is this fact which imparts a unique character to the 
social situation of the present moment. 

But it has not been simply the scientific revolution which has 
shattered the patterns men have inherited from the past. Equally 
distinctive have been the social and political upheavals of the 
past forty years. The impact of two world wars in one generation 
of the twentieth century and the development of totalitarian 
ideologies in Central and Eastern Europe have radically changed 
the structure of European society and fundamentally altered the 
balance of power on which European world hegemony rested. 
No longer is it possible for Western man to view the rest of the 
world from the eminence of a privileged position of superior 
power and wealth. Within Europe itself the hurricanes of war 
and revolution have levelled to the ground many of Europe's most 
historic institutions; while from without, the rising tide of Ori- 
ental nationalism and xenophobia has all but erased the islands 
of European culture and political power which previously existed 
in the East. 

It is little wonder that such a situation has increasingly turned 
the attention of the educated layman and even the general public 
[vi] to questions concerning man's historical destiny and the meaning 
of the present moment in world history. If it no longer seems 
valid to accept the Progress theory of history which assured the 

man of the nineteenth century of the happy outcome of the 
changes he saw taking place around him, in what new light shall 
the man of the twentieth century view the revolutionary develop- 
ments of the present era? 

It is in reply to this question that contemporary philosophers 
of history have obtained an ever widening audience for their 
views: whether the idea be that of the inevitable decline of each 
historic civilization described with such compelling imagery by 
Oswald Spengler, or the view of Arnold Toynbee that each civili- 
zation achieves its individual character by overcoming the obsta- 
cles that confront it, or the thesis of F. S. C. Northrop that East 
and West are by their nature meant to complement each other 
in the formation of a future world civilization. And these, of 
course, are but a few of the interpreters of history and culture 
who have attempted to explain the meaning of the changes taking 
place in the rapidly expanding universe of modern civilisation. 

How does the work of Christopher Dawson fit into this picture? 
By what particular features may his approach to the interpretation 
of history be defined? What does he believe to be the elements 
most important for cultural progress, or does he consider progress 
on the broad scale to be possible in history? How does his thought 
compare with that of other "metahistorians" 1 and philosophers of 

It is to provide an adequate answer to these and other questions 
of a similar nature that the present volume has been assembled. 
Selected from Mr. Dawson's writings over the last thirty-five years, 
beginning with his earliest published article in The Sociological 
Review in 1921 ("Sociology and the Theory of Progress") 
concluding with his critique of Arnold Toynbee's Study of His- 
tory in the April 1955 issue of International Affairs, the book aims 
to present a representative cross section of his thought on world 

1 See below, "The Problem of Metahistory," pp. 287-93 

[vii] Between these two dates practically the whole of Christopher 
Dawson's career as a writer lies; during this period, in books and 

magazine articles, he has formulated a conception of world his- 
tory that, in scope and in vision, ranks with the work of Spengler, 
Northrop and Toynbee. However, the significance of his thought 
as a philosopher of history and culture has been obscured by the 
fact that the majority of his books have been devoted specifically 
to two major tasks: (1) tracing the historical development of 
Western culture, and (2) analyzing the causes of the contempo- 
rary world crisis. In several of his earlier works, however, and in 
many uncollected articles, Mr. Dawson has dealt with other sub- 
jects that are of vital interest to students of comparative culture. 
It is with the purpose of bringing into focus these neglected 
aspects of Mr. Dawson's thought, and calling them particularly 
to the attention of anthropologists and sociologists, that the pres- 
ent selection has been made. 

First in these fields of Christopher Dawson's thought on com- 
parative culture is what we may call "The Movement of World 
History," his investigation of the cross-fertilizing contacts be- 
tween different civilisations and cultures, and the enlargement in 
the area of cultural communication which these contacts bring 
about. His first volume, The Age of the Gods (1928), subtitled 
"A Study in the Origins of Culture in Prehistoric Europe and the 
Ancient East," which narrates the development of civilization 
down to about 1000 B.C., is the largest work he has devoted to 
this subject. However, Progress and Religion, published in the 
following year (1929), treats in more condensed form the inter- 
mingling of sociological with intellectual factors in the develop- 
ment of civilisation, providing an account from primitive times 
down to the modern period; and it is in this volume that Mr. 
Dawson has afforded us the best synthetic view of his conception 
of world history. Progress and Religion has served as a seed bed 
for several of his later works, for the ideas presented there in spare 
but impressive outline are in these other volumes elaborated and 
developed. Possibly the most important of these later books for 
the present topic is Enquiries (1933). In addition to three or four 
longer papers illustrating the main points in his conception of 

[viii] world history, it contains several penetrating studies of social 
and religious movements. 

The second area of Christopher Dawson's thought which the 
present volume is intended to illustrate may be called "The Dy- 
namics of Culture." Since it is upon his philosophy of culture 
that Mr. Dawson draws for the principles that govern his ap- 
proach to history, we shall provide an extended analysis of this 
philosophy in a later part of the present book. For an under- 
standing of Dawson's view of the dynamics of culture, the three 
volumes we have mentioned above and also the first series of 
his Gifford Lectures, Religion and Culture (1948), are indispens- 
able. Both the first and third sections of the present selection 
"The Sociological Foundations of History" and "Urbanism and 
the Organic Nature of Culture" contain articles of great signifi- 
cance for this topic. 

Then, of course, there is the area of Dawson's work concerned 
with evaluation and criticism of various conceptions of world his- 
tory. Previously his contributions to this subject have been so 
scattered through different books and magazines that we believe 
that a most valuable feature of the present work lies in the fact 
they are now brought together under one cover. The last two 
sections of the present volume grouped under the heading "Con- 
ceptions of World History" contain all of Dawson's articles in 
this area, we believe, with the exception of one on Hegel's phi- 
of history, which has very recently been published in 
Understanding Europe and thus is readily available to the reader. 

A fourth general topic dealt with rather extensively in Christo- 
pher Dawson's writings on world history is what is usually termed 
Comparative Religion. From the viewpoint of Mr. Dawson's 
approach, however, it might more accurately be called the Mean- 
ing of Mankind's Religious Experience. Two volumes are par- 
ticularly rich with his insights into this problem : Progress and 
Religion, which devotes a third of its pages to this topic, and Re- 
ligion and Culture, where the whole book is devoted in one way 
or another to its consideration. For our purposes we have chosen 
a more condensed form of his interpretation of this subject, taken 
from a small book published in 1931 under the title Christianity 
[ix] and the New Age. In this essay, which gives special attention to 
primitive religion and the Oriental world religions, he shows the 

unity which lies behind man's developing understanding of re- 
ligious reality and traces the basic needs in human nature which 
all religions attempt to satisfy. In some ways this essay of Daw- 
son's suggests the goal which Etienne Gilson set himself in the 
field of philosophy in such a volume as The Unity of Philosophi- 
cal Experience or, even closer to the subject of comparative re- 
ligion, in God and Philosophy. 

Organization of the Book 

In organizing [Dynamics of World History] to present the main ideas 
of Christopher Dawson's thought in these four areas, we have preferred 
to bring together articles dealing with the same general subject 
matter rather than to present the selections in the chronological 
order of their publication. 2 The general plan of the book is to 
illustrate how Christopher Dawson's view of history is built upon 
his conception of the sociological factors that are the dynamics 
for historical events and movements. We therefore devote the 
first section of the book to Dawson's discussion of the nature of 
sociology and the elements in culture and society which he finds 
most significant; this is followed by a presentation of certain as- 
pects of world history as influenced by factors of a sociological 
nature. The third section considers a topic of central importance 
in Dawson's sociology and one which he believes has had far- 
reaching influence on the course of history: the nature of urban 
development, and the need for a highly developed civilization, if 
it is not to become abstract and formless, to retain its roots in the 
regional environment from which it has sprung. 

These three sections constitute the first major division of this 
work, called "Toward a Sociology of History." Of the articles it 
contains, the one entitled "Religion and the Life of Civilization" 
comes closest to giving us (although in an abbreviated form) 
Dawson's own conception of world history. It thus may be used 

2 See ... "Sources," [in Dynamics of World History] for the original date and 
place of publication of each article. 

[x] for comparison with those articles in Part II which provide a 
critique of the views of other contemporary interpreters of world 


This second major division of the volume --"Conceptions of 
World History"-- approaches history from the viewpoint of ideas 
men have held concerning its significance rather than from the 
standpoint of actual human societies in contact with their en- 
vironment. It illustrates the manner in which the history of man- 
kind is affected as much by intellectual forces as by realities of a 
more material nature. But it also shows that a purely philosophi- 
cal approach to history is likely to result, as it did in Greece and 
India, in the denial that history has any ultimate significance and 
in the acceptance of the principle of recurrence rather than prog- 
ress as the key to historical events. Only when a conception of 
history is based upon a regard for sociological facts can it avoid 
the explaining away of history which is the pitfall of the philoso- 

It was precisely because the Christian view of history was rooted 
in the social tradition of the Hebrew Law and the Prophets and 
had developed from the historical experience of a particular peo- 
ple, the Jews, that it was able to break through the closed circle 
of the ancient world's "recurrence" conception of history. Be- 
cause its ideas were not mere philosophic abstractions but 
grounded in social and historical realities, Christianity laid the 
foundations for a view of history which is both universal and 
progressive: that is, it embraced the whole of humankind in its 
vision and it saw history as moving toward an ultimate goal of 
unique and transcendent significance. 

This new attitude toward history introduced by the Judaeo- 
Christian tradition has become the source of the intense interest 
in the meaning of history which distinguishes Western culture 
from the civilizations of the Orient and has resulted in an in- 
creasingly rich development in Western philosophies of history 
from St Augustine down to Karl Marx and Arnold Toynbee. (It 
will be noted that two of the articles devoted to the Christian in- 
terpretation of history in Part II of this volume are at the same 
[xi] time discussions of the influence of the Christian view of history 
upon social and historical thought in the West.) As a result of its 
universal and progressive view of history, and the social activity 

and historical dynamism which this view has engendered, West- 
em culture has had a more revolutionary impact upon mankind 
than any other civilization and has gradually brought the other 
world cultures into a single area of communication with itself. 

Thus the link between the two major divisions of [Dynamics of 
World History] is to be found in the emphasis they both place on 
sociological factors in history, whether those factors are manifested 
directly in historical developments or are mediated through the 
support they provide to world-transforming historical ideas. This 
emphasis on culture and sociological factors does not mean that 
the intellectual life of man is merely determined by material con- 
ditions, as Marx would claim, but it does signify that ideas do not 
grow and develop as social forces or exercise their full influence 
unless they are supported by a social tradition and possess some 
vital communion with the life of the particular society they seek 
to influence. 

Regarded as a whole, there is a progress from sociology to world 
history in the general plan of the present volume, and a linking 
up of material factors in cultural development with those of a 
more intellectual nature. 3 


3 For the interrelation between sociology and history in Christopher 
Dawson's thought, see [Dynamics of World History], pages 413-68. 


"Civilization and Morals," published in The Sociological 
Review (Vol. XVII, July 1925); reprinted in Dawson's Enquir- 
ies (1933) and in Dynamics of World History (1958), pp. 45-53, 
from which the following is taken. 

IF we make a survey of human history and culture, we see clearly 
that every society has possessed a moral code, which is often 
clearly thought out and exactly defined. In practically every soci- 
ety in the past there has been an intimate relation between this 

moral code and the dominant religion. Often the code of ethics 
is conceived as the utterance of a divine law- giver, as in Judaism 
and Islam. In non-theistic religions, it may be viewed as a "disci- 
pline of salvation" a harmonizing of human action with the cos- 
mic process as in Taoism (and to some extent Confucianism) or 
else as the method by which the individual mind is freed from il- 
lusion, and led to Reality (Buddhism and Vedantism). 

But it may be asked is it not possible to go behind these historic 
world-religions, and find a simpler, purely social ethic? Certainly 
primitive morality is entirely customary, but it is also closely 
bound up with primitive religion or magic (if the two can be dis- 
tinguished). A moral offence is not so much an offence against a 
man's fellow tribesmen, as doing something which provokes the 
mysterious powers that surround man; the primitive "moralist" is 
the man who understands how to placate these powers and ren- 
der them friendly. But if there is not much evidence for the exist- 
ence of a pre-religious morality, there is no doubt about the exist- 
ence of a post-religious one. In every advanced civilization, as 
men become critical of the dominant religion, they tend to elab- 
orate systems of philosophy, new interpretations of reality and 
[46] corresponding codes of ethics. In every case, the metaphysic 
and the ethic are inseparably connected, and in theory it is the meta- 
physic which is the foundation of the ethic. In reality, however, it 
may be questioned whether the reverse is not often the case, 
whether the ethical attitude is not taken over from the formerly 
dominant religion, and then justified by a philosophical construc- 

Thus I believe Kant's ethic may be explained as a direct sur- 
vival of the intensive moral culture of Protestantism, and many 
similar instances could be adduced. But apart from these cases of 
direct inspiration, it is only to be expected there should be some 
relation between the dominant religion and the characteristic 
philosophies in the case of each particular culture. 
The situation with regard to ethical codes, in a society in which 
religion is no longer completely dominant, is somewhat as fol- 

A. There is a minority which still adheres completely to the 

old faith and corresponding ethical system. 

B. There is a still smaller minority which adheres consciously 
to a new rational interpretation of reality, and adopts new ideals 
of conduct and standards of moral behaviour. 

C. The great majority follow a mixed "pragmatic" code of 
morality made up of (1 ) the striving for individual wealth and en- 
joyment, (2) an "actual" social ethic of group-egotism or "tribal" 
patriotism, (3) certain tabus left over from the old religion-cul- 
ture. These are usually the great precepts of social morality, e.g., 
against murder, theft, adultery, &c, but they may be purely ritual 
restrictions (e.g., the survival of the Scotch Sunday in spite of the 
disappearance of the religious substructure); (4) to a slight extent 
a top-dressing of the new moral ideals from B. 

This situation is to a great extent characteristic of the modern 
world, but we must also take account of a great movement, 
neither a religion nor a philosophy in the ordinary sense of the 
words, which may be regarded as a kind of reflection of the old 
religion-culture or else as the first stage of a new one. This is the 
Democratic or Liberal movement, which grew up in England and 
France in the eighteenth century, and which found classic expres- 
[47] sion in the Declaration of Independence, 1776, and the Dec- 
laration of the Rights of Men, 1789. It was based on the new 
naturalist philosophy and theology of the English Deists and the 
French philosophers, and it owed much to the political and eco- 
nomic teaching of the Physiocrats and Adam Smith, but its great 
prophet and true founder was Rousseau. This movement contin- 
ued to grow with the expansion of European civilization in the 
nineteenth century. It is at present the established religion of the 
U.S.A. and Latin America, any deviation from it being regarded 
as heretical, and it is by no means a negligible force in Europe. It 
is doubtful, however, whether it can be regarded as a new culture- 
religion, since it seems simply to carry on, in a generalized and 
abstract form, the religious and ethical teaching of the previously 
dominant religion. 

Supposing that we have correctly outlined above the general 
course of the development of moral conceptions, the chief prob- 

lems to be solved are the following - 

(1) Is the development of moral conceptions progressive, and 
if so, in what direction does this progress tend? 

(2) What is the cause of the changes in the dominant concep- 
tion of Reality, on which the change of moral systems seems to 

(3) Is it possible to elaborate a rational system of ethics based 
on a modern scientific interpretation of Reality? 

Now it seems clear that it is impossible to have a purely "prac- 
tical" morality divorced from an interpretation of Reality. Such a 
morality would be mere social custom and essentially unprogres- 
sive. Progress springs very largely from the attempt to bring ac- 
tual conditions and social habits into harmony with what are con- 
ceived as the laws or conditions of real life. The very conception 
of morality involves a duality or opposition between what "is" 
and what "ought to be" Moreover from the very earliest condi- 
tions of primitive savagery up to the highest degree of intellectual 
culture, the ethical standard can be shown to be closely con- 
nected with some kind of world-view or conception of reality, 
whether that is embodied in a mythology, or a philosophy, or is 
merely vaguely implicit in the customs and beliefs of the society. 

[48] Now the great obstacle to the attainment of a purely rational 
system of ethics is simply our lack of knowledge of Reality. If we 
can accept some metaphysic of Absolute Being, then we shall 
quickly possess an absolute morality, as the Platonists did. But if 
we limit ourselves to positive and scientific knowledge of Reality, 
it is at once evident that we are limited to a little island of light 
in the middle of an ocean of darkness. Unfortunately, Herbert 
Spencer's attitude towards the Unknowable will not help us here, 
for the machina mundi is a dynamic unity, and the part of it that 
we know shares in the movement of the unknown whole. Most 
philosophies and religions have supposed that there is some kind 
of meaning or reason in the world process; though there are 
thinkers like Lucretius (and perhaps Bertrand Russell) who deny 
this, and yet try to fashion a kind of "island" morality for reason- 

able humanity shipwrecked amidst the chaos of an irrational uni- 
verse. Nevertheless the great majority of modern thinkers, and in 
fact modern men, believe profoundly in the existence of progress, 
and not merely a progress of succession but a progress of improve- 
ment. "Life moves on to ever higher and richer forms. Here is an 
adequate goal for moral effort! Here is a justification of moral 
values! Here is the true foundation for a modern system of 

But from the purely rational point of view what does all this 
amount to? So far from explaining the problems of human exist- 
ence, it adds fresh difficulties. There is continual movement from 
the Known to the Unknown. Something that was not before, has 
come to be. Granted that the true morality is that which sub- 
serves Progress, how can we know what it is that will best serve 
the Unknown? Could Aurignacian man divine the coming of 
civilization? Could the men of the Mycenean age foresee Hellen- 
ism? When the people of Israel came raiding into Canaan, could 
they look forward to the future of Judaism? And yet all these 
achievements were in some degree implicit in the beginnings of 
these peoples. They created what they could not understand. If 
they had limited themselves to the observance of a purely rational 
social ethic based on the immediate advantage of the community, 
they might have been more prosperous, but they would not have 
[49] been culturally creative. They would have had no importance for 
the future. The highest moral ideal either for a people or for an 
individual is to be true to its destiny, to sacrifice the bird in the 
hand for the vision in the bush, to leave the known for the un- 
known, like Abram going out from Harran and from his own 
people, obedient to the call of Yahweh, or the Aeneas of Virgil's 
great religious epic. 

This of course seems mere mysticism and the very contradic- 
tion of a reasonable ethical system. Nevertheless it seems to be 
the fact that a new way of life or a new view of Reality is felt in- 
tuitively before it is comprehended intellectually, that a philoso- 
phy is the last product of a mature culture, the crown of a long 
process of social development, not its foundation. It is in Religion 
and Art that we can best see the vital intention of the living cul- 

Ananda Coomaraswamy, writing of Indian art, says: — "The 
gods are the dreams of the race in whom its intentions are most 
perfectly fulfilled. From them we come to know its innermost 
desires and purposes, ... He is no longer an Indian, whatever 
his birth, who can stand before the Trimurti at Elephanta, not 
saying 'but so did I will it — So shall I will it."'l 

The modern psychologist of Art will probably object that this 
view of the meaning of Art is purely subjective and fanciful. A 
work of Art, he will say, represents simply the solution of a 
psychic tension, the satisfaction of a rather recondite and com- 
plicated impulse, which is of importance only for the psychic life 
of the individual. From the point of view of the psychologist this 
is no doubt justified, but then from the same point of view all cul- 
tural activities, nay the life process itself, may be explained in 
terms of psychic tensions and their solution. Yet this is merely an 
analysis of the psychic mechanism, and it takes little or no ac- 
count of the underlying physical realities. For instance, when one 
eats one's dinner, one satisfies an impulse, and solves a psychic 
tension, viz., the hunger tension, but at the same time one builds 
up the physical organism, and the results of a persistent neglect to 

1 A. Coomaraswamy, The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon, p. 59. 

[50] take food cannot be assessed simply in terms of a repression psy- 

Consequently, in the case of Art, it is not enough to look at the 
psychic impulse of the individual artist. It is only in times of 
cultural decadence and social dissolution that Art is a "refuge 
from reality" for the individual mind. Normally it is an expression 
of mastery over life. The same purposeful fashioning of plastic 
material which is the very essence of a culture, expresses itself also 
in art. The Greek statue must be first conceived, then lived, 
then made, and last of all thought. There you have the whole 
cycle of creative Hellenic culture. First, Religion, then Society, 
then Art, and finally Philosophy. Not that one of these is cause 
and the others effects. They are all different aspects or functions 
of one life. 

Now it is obvious that if such a central purpose or life-intention 
exists in a society, the adhesion to it or the defection from it of 
the individual becomes the central fact in social morality. There 
remain, of course, a certain number of obvious moral duties with- 
out which social life is hardly conceivable and which must be 
much the same in every age and society. But then these acquire 
very different meaning according to the ruling principle to which 
they are related. The offence of murder, for example, cannot have 
the same meaning in a society such as ancient Assyria, where 
religion and morality were essentially warlike, as among the Jains 
to whom taking of life, under any circumstances and in respect to 
any creature, is the one unpardonable sin. Again to the modern 
European or American, social justice necessarily involves an in- 
creasing measure of equality and fraternity; to the ancient Indian 
on the other hand, justice involves the strictest preservation of 
every barrier between classes and occupations — to him the very 
type of lawlessness is the man who oversteps the boundaries 
of his caste. If morality was purely social, and concerned entirety 
with the relation of the individual to the group in which he lives, 
this difference of moral standards would no doubt be less though 
it would not be eliminated. But actually men's view of social 
reality form but a part of their conception of cosmic reality and 
morality involves a constant process of adjustment not only be- 
[51] tween individual impulse and social reality, but also between 
the actual life of society and the life of the whole, whether that is 
conceived cosmically or is limited to humanity. There is a tend- 
ency in every organism, whether individual or social, to stop at 
itself, to turn in on itself, to make itself a goal instead of a bridge. 
Just as the individual tends to follow his antisocial impulses so 
the society also tends to assert itself against the larger interests of 
humanity or the laws of universal life. We see clearly enough that 
a dominant class is only too apt to make society serve its own 
ends, instead of subordinating itself to the functional service of 
society, and the same thing happens with every actual society, in 
its relations towards other societies and towards humanity at 

This is why moral systems in the past have (except in China) so 
often shown a tendency of hostility to the actual social group, and 
have established themselves in a super-social sphere. Certainly 

the great moral reformers have usually found the greatest op- 
position not in the "immoral" and impulsive individual, but in 
the regularly constituted organs of social authority and law. And 
it is one of the greatest difficulties in the democratic system that 
the force of this actual social authority is so enormously strength- 
ened by its identification with public opinion that the position of 
the individual whose moral standards and whose grasp of reality 
are in advance of his society is increasingly hard to maintain: in- 
stead of the triangle Government, People, Reformers, we have 
the sharp dualism Governing people, Reformers. 

At first sight there may seem to be a contradiction between the 
idea of individuals being in advance of the morality of their 
society and the conception of the existence of a central life-pur- 
pose in every civilization. But it must be remembered that there 
is a great distinction between the age-long racial and spiritual 
communion which is a civilization and the association for practi- 
cal ends which is an actual political society. Not for thousands of 
years perhaps — not since the earliest kingdoms of Egypt and 
again excepting China - have the two coincided. There is always a 
dualism between the Hellenic state and Hellenism, the Christian 
state and Christendom, the Moslem state and Islam, the "modern" 
[52] state and "Modern civilization," and the individual man has 
a double citizenship and a double allegiance. Certainly every ac- 
tual society is moulded by the civilization to which it belongs, 
and to which it always professes a certain loyalty, but the whole 
emphasis of its activity is on the present, the actual, the practical, 
and it tends to regard the civilization as something fixed and 
achieved, as a static background to its own activities. Conse- 
quently there are frequent conflicts between the spirit of the cul- 
ture, and that of the actual society, which become manifest in 
the opposition to the actual social will of those individuals whose 
minds are in closer contact with the wider movement of the 
whole civilization. For a man's social contacts vary with the rich- 
ness of his psychic life, and it is only in the mind of the man 
whom we call a genius that the creative movement in the living 
culture becomes explicit. The ordinary man is only conscious of 
the past, he may belong to the cultural present by his acts, by the 
part that he plays in the social life of his time, but his view of 
reality, his power of sight is limited to what has been already 

perceived and formulated by others. 

About 2,500 years ago civilization underwent a great revolution 
owing to a change in men's conceptions of Reality. Throughout 
the ancient world from the Mediterranean to India and China, 
men came to realize the existence of a universal cosmic law to 
which both humanity and the powers of nature are subject. This 
was the foundation of the great religious civilizations whether 
theistic or non-theistic, which have controlled the world for some 
2,000 years. In some cases, especially in India and China, the old 
worship of the nature powers was carried over into the new cul- 
ture, but even there, and still more in Islam and Christendom, 
there was a neglect of the material side of civilisation due to a 
concentration on ideal values and absolute existence, which in 
some cases, especially in Greece and Mesopotamia, led to a de- 
cline in material culture. 

Since the Renaissance there has been first in the West, and 
then increasingly throughout the world, a new comprehension 
of Reality, due to the turning of man's attention once more to 
the powers and processes of nature and resulting in the elabora- 
[53] tion of scientific laws. On this new knowledge, and on the new 
power of control over nature that it gives, our modern Western 
Civilization is being built up. Thus it is in a sense a reaction 
against the second stage described above, and since European 
and still more Oriental culture has been based traditionally upon 
that stage, there is at present a conflict and a dualism existing 
within the culture itself. Moreover, the new third stage of culture 
while far superior to the second in knowledge and power with re- 
gard to particulars, is far less unified and less morally sure of itself. 
It arose either as an expansion or as a criticism of the second 
stage, and not as an independent self-sufficient culture. As the 
recent history of Europe has shown, it may easily end in a suicidal 
process of exploitation and social self-aggrandizement, or it may 
lose itself in the particular. Therefore, the great problem, both 
moral and intellectual, of the present age lies in securing the 
fruits of the new knowledge of nature without sacrificing the 
achievements of the previous stage of culture, in reconciling the 
sovereignty of universal cosmic law with man's detailed knowl- 
edge of himself and the powers and processes of nature. 


"Vitality or Standardization in Culture" 

From Chapter I, Part II of The Judgment of the Nations 

(1942), reprinted in Dynamics of World History, pp. 75-79. 

IF we accept the principle of social planning from the bottom 
upwards without regard for spiritual values we are left with a 
machine-made culture which differs from one country to another 
only in so far as the process of mechanization is more or less 
perfected. To most people this is rather an appalling prospect, for 
the ordinary man does not regard the rationalization of life as 
the only good. On the contrary, men are often more attracted by 
the variety of life than by its rationality. Even if it were possible 
to solve all the material problems of life: poverty, unemploy- 
ment and war and to construct a uniform scientifically-organ- 
ized world order, neither the strongest nor the highest elements 
in human nature would find satisfaction in it. 

These views are usually dismissed by the progressive as reac- 
tionary. They are in fact the arguments of the conservative, the 
traditionalist and the romantic. They were first developed by 
Burke and the romantics against the social rationalism of the En- 
lightenment and the French Revolution. But their criticism was 
based on a real sense of historical realities and they had, above all, 
a much clearer and deeper sense of the nature of culture than the 
philosophers whom they criticized. 

They saw the immense richness and vitality of European 
culture in its manifold development in the different nations 
through the ages, and, in comparison, the philosophic ideal of a 
[76] society founded on abstract rational principles seemed lifeless 
and empty. 

And today, even in spite of all the achievements of scientific 
technique and the increased possibilities of social control, the 
problem still remains whether it is possible to produce by scien- 

tific planning a culture that will be as rich and varied and vital 
as one that has grown up unconsciously or half-consciously in 
the course of ages. 

Comparing the modern planned society with the unplanned 
historical societies which it has succeeded we see that it is enor- 
mously superior in power and wealth, but it has two great weak- 
nesses: (a) it seems to leave little or no room for personal freedom, 
and (b) it disregards spiritual values. 

We see these twin defects most strongly marked in the totali- 
tarian states, which have been absolutely ruthless in their treat- 
ment of personal rights. But wherever modern mechanized mass 
culture obtains, even in countries of liberal tradition, we find the 
freedom of the personality threatened by the pressure of econom- 
ic forces, and the higher cultural values sacrificed to the lower 
standards of mass civilization. This is not simply a question of 
class conflict, for it is not only the life of the proletariat that is 
standardized. On the contrary, the most extreme forms of cul- 
tural standardization are to be found in the higher economic 
levels. The luxury hotel is the same all over the world and repre- 
sents a thoroughly materialistic type of culture, while the inn 
which caters to the poorer classes has preserved its cultural indi- 
viduality and national or local character to an exceptional degree. 
The older type of culture was characterized by a great inequal. 
ity in regard to individual freedom. Freedom was a manifold 
thing. There were all kinds of different freedoms. The noble, 
the bourgeois and the peasant each had his own freedom and his 
own constraints. On the whole there was a lot of freedom and no 
equality, while today there is a lot of equality and hardly any 

Similarly the older type of culture had very little power over 
its environment, natural or social But it had very clearly defined 
spiritual standards and was rich in cultural values. These were 
[77] of course primarily religious, for religion was the supreme unify- 
ing force in the old type of society, but they were also cultural 
in the narrower sense, so that these societies had a much greater 
sense of style than our own. 

Today we have made incalculable progress in the scientific 
control of our environment, but at the same time our culture 
has lost any clearly defined spiritual standards and aims, and our 
cultural values have become impoverished. 

In fact at the present time it looks as though we were begin- 
ning to witness a sort of persecution of culture, corresponding 
to the anti-clerical and anti-religious movement of the last cen- 
tury. Of course the culture that is being attacked is by no means 
the same thing as the religious or humanist culture of the past. 
It is a sort of devitalized intellectualism which no longer pos- 
sesses a social function or a sense of social responsibility. 

A culture of this kind is a decadent and dying form of culture, 
and it is bound to disappear. But that does not mean that so- 
ciety can exist without culture at all. It is all very well saying "To 
Hell with Culture" but that is just what has happened, and see 
where it has landed us! During the last thirty years the natural 
leaders of Western culture have been liquidated pretty thor- 
oughly - on the battlefield, by firing squads, in concentration 
camps and in exile. A tough may be better than a highbrow, but 
a society that is dominated by toughs is not necessarily a tough 
society: it is more likely to be a disintegrated and disordered one. 
It is a phenomenon that is common enough in history, a typical 
phenomenon of periods of transition, and it is often followed by 
a sharp reaction which prepares the way for a spiritual renais- 

Sooner or later, there must be a revival of culture and a re- 
organization of the spiritual life of Western society. 

The more successful and complete is the process of economic 
organization the greater will be the need for a super-economic 
objective of social action. If man's increased control over his en- 
vironment and his greater material resources were simply de- 
voted to the quantitative multiplication of his material needs and 
[78] satisfactions, civilization would end in a morass of collective 
self-indulgence. But the more natural and rational solution would 
be to devote the increased power and wealth and leisure that 
would emerge in a planned society towards cultural ends or, in 

other words, to the creation of a "good life" in the Aristotelian 
sense. For the higher culture is, after all, essentially the fruit of 
the surplus energy and resources of society. Cathedrals and thea- 
tres, universities and palaces — such things flower naturally from 
a healthy society as soon as it has acquired a bare margin of free- 
dom and leisure. 

It is obvious that the new planned society should be more and 
not less culturally creative than the societies of the past which 
accomplished such great things in spite of their poverty and 
weakness. The reason it has not been so hitherto has been due to 
our intense and one-sided preoccupation with the economic is- 
sue, which led to the starvation of all the non-economic functions 
and which also created the unemployment problem in the form 
in which we know it. But a planned culture which is the neces- 
sary complement to a planned economy would restore the bal- 
ance of society, since it would devote no less a degree of or- 
ganized social effort and thought to the development of the non- 
economic functions. In this respect it would mark a return to the 
traditions of the pre-industrial age, which put a much higher 
social value on the non-economic functions than we have done 
in the West for the last century and more. 

But if we admit the creative powers of reason and the primacy 
of the spirit, we shall have to leave room in our planned world 
for the intervention of a power which transcends planning. And 
the only place for this power in a planned society is at the sum- 
mit as the source of spiritual energy and the guiding principle 
of the whole development. For as economic planning is impos- 
sible unless a society possesses a certain amount of physical 
vitality — a will to live which provides the motive power for work- 
so cultural planning requires an analogous principle of spiritual 
life without which "culture" becomes a pale abstraction. 
The only way to desecularize culture is by giving a spiritual 
[79] aim to the whole system of organization, so that the machine be- 
comes the servant of the spirit and not its enemy or its master. 
Obviously this is a tremendous task, but it is one that we cannot 
avoid facing in the near future. And while the present situation 
in many respects seems more difficult than any in past history, it 
is at the same time also more unstable, less fixed in custom and 

less emotionally attached. In fact the mechanization of human 
life renders it more sensitive to spiritual influence, in some re- 
spects, than the old unorganized type of culture: at the present 
time this response is most evident where the forces in question 
are most evil, but clearly this cannot be the only possibility, and 
the great problem that we have to face is how to discover the 
means that are necessary to open this new world of apparently 
soulless and soul-destroying mechanism to the spiritual world 
which stands so near to it. 


"The Patriarchal Family in History" 

from "Christianity and Sex," 

published in Enquiries (1933); reprinted in 

Dynamics of World History (1958), pp. 156-166. 

The traditional view of the family was founded on a somewhat naive and one-sided 
conception of history. The knowledge of the past was confined to the history of 
classical civilization and to that of the Jews, in both of which the patriarchal family 
reigned supreme. But when the European horizon was widened by the 
geographical discoveries of modern times, men suddenly realized the existence of 
societies whose social organization was utterly different to anything that they had 
imagined. The discovery of totemism and exogamy, of matrilinear institutions, of 
polyandry, and of customs of organized sexual licence gave rise to a whole host of 
new theories concerning the origins of marriage and the family. Under the 
influence of the prevalent evolutionary philosophy, scholars like Lewis Morgan 
elaborated the theory of the gradual evolution of the family from a condition of 
primitive sexual promiscuity through various forms of group-marriage and 
temporary pairing up to the higher forms of patriarchal and monogamous marriage 
as they exist in developed civilizations. This theory naturally commended itself to 
socialists. It received the official imprimatur of the leaders of German Socialism in 
the later nineteenth century, and has become as much a part of orthodox socialist 
thought as the Marxian interpretation of history. It was, however, never fully 
accepted by the scientific world, and is today generally abandoned, although it still 
finds a few supporters among anthropologists. In England it is still maintained by 
Mr. E. S. Hartland and by Dr. Briffault, whose vast work The Mothers (3 vols., 
1927) is entirely devoted to the subject. According to Briffault, primitive society 
was purely matriarchal in organization, and the primitive family group consisted 

only of a woman and her offspring. A prolonged sexual association, such as we 
find in all existing forms of marriage, except in Russia, is neither natural nor 
primitive, and has no place in matriarchal society. The original social unit was not 
the family, but the clan which was based on matrilinear kinship and was entirely 
communistic in its sexual and economic relations. The family, as we understand it, 
owes nothing to biological or sexual causes, but is an economic institution arising 
from the development of private property and the consequent domination of 
women by men. It is "but a euphemism for the individualistic male with his 
subordinate dependents." 

But in spite of its logical coherence, and the undoubted existence of matrilinear 
institutions in primitive society, this theory has not been borne out by recent 
investigations. The whole tendency of modern anthropology has been to discredit 
the old views regarding primitive promiscuity and sexual communism, and to 
emphasize the importance and universality of marriage. Whether the social 
organization is matrilinear or patrilinear, whether morality is strict or loose, it is the 
universal rule of every known society that a woman before she bears a child must 
be married to an individual male partner. The importance of this rule has been 
clearly shown by Dr. Malinowski. "The universal postulate of legitimacy," he 
writes, "has a great sociological significance which is not yet sufficiently 
acknowledged. It means that in all human societies moral tradition and law decree 
that the group consisting of a woman and her offspring is not a sociologically 
complete unit. The ruling of culture runs here again on entirely the same lines as 
natural endowment; it declares that the human family must consist of the male as 
well as the female. "[1] 

It is impossible to go back behind the family and find a state of society in which 
the sexual relations are in a pre-social stage, for the regulation of sexual relations is 
an essential pre-requisite of any kind of culture. The family is not a product of 
culture; it is, as Malinowski shows, "the starting point of all human organization" 
and "the cradle of nascent culture." Neither the sexual nor the parental instinct is 
distinctively human. They exist equally among the animals, and they only acquire 
cultural significance when their purely biological function is transcended by the 
attainment of a permanent social relation. 

Marriage is the social consecration of the biological functions, by which the 
instinctive activities of sex and parenthood are socialized and a new synthesis of 
cultural and natural elements is created in the shape of the family. This synthesis 
differs from anything that exists in the animal world in that it no longer leaves man 
free to follow his own sexual instincts; he is forced to conform them to a certain 
social pattern. The complete freedom from restraint which was formerly supposed 
to be characteristic of savage life is a romantic myth. In all primitive societies 
sexual relations are regulated by a complex and meticulous system of restrictions, 

any breach of which is regarded not merely as an offence against tribal law, but as 
morally sinful. These rules mostly have their origin in the fear of incest, which is 
the fundamental crime against the family, since it leads to the disorganization of 
family sentiment and the destruction of family authority. It is unnecessary to insist 
upon the importance of the consequences of this fear of incest in both individual 
and social psychology, since it is the fundamental thesis of Freud and his school. 
Unfortunately, in his historical treatment of the subject, in Totem and Tabu, he 
inverts the true relation, and derives the sociological structure from a pre-existent 
psychological complex instead of vice versa. In reality, as Dr. Malinowski has 
shown, the fundamental repression which lies at the root of social life is not the 
suppressed memory of an instinctive crime—Freud's prehistoric Oedipus tragedy— 
but a deliberate constructive repression of anti-social impulses. "The beginning of 
culture implies the repression of instincts, and all the essentials of the Oedipus 
complex or any other complex are necessary by-products in the gradual formation 
of culture."[2] 

The institution of the family inevitably creates a vital tension which is creative as 
well as painful. For human culture is not instinctive. It has to be conquered by a 
continuous moral effort, which involves the repression of natural instinct and the 
subordination and sacrifice of the individual impulse to the social purpose. It is the 
fundamental error of the modern hedonist to believe that man can abandon moral 
effort and throw off every repression and spiritual discipline and yet preserve all 
the achievements of culture. It is the lesson of history that the higher the 
achievement of a culture the greater is the moral effort and the stricter is the social 
discipline that it demands. The old type of matrilinear society, though it is by no 
means devoid of moral discipline, involves considerably less repression and is 
consistent with a much laxer standard of sexual behaviour than is usual in 
patriarchal societies. But at the same time it is not capable of any high cultural 
achievement or of adapting itself to changed circumstances. It remains bound to its 
elaborate and cumbrous mechanism of tribal custom. 

The patriarchal family, on the other hand, makes much greater demands on human 
nature. It requires chastity and self-sacrifice on the part of the wife and obedience 
and discipline on the part of the children, while even the father himself has to 
assume a heavy burden of responsibility and submit his personal feelings to the 
interests of the family tradition. But for these very reasons the patriarchal family is 
a much more efficient organ of cultural life. It is no longer limited to its primary 
sexual and reproductive functions. It becomes the dynamic principle of society and 
the source of social continuity. Hence, too, it acquires a distinctively religious 
character, which was absent in matrilinear societies, and which is now expressed in 
the worship of the family hearth or the sacred fire and the ceremonies of the 
ancestral cult. The fundamental idea in marriage is no longer the satisfaction of the 

sexual appetite, but, as Plato says: "the need that every man feels of clinging to the 
eternal life of nature by leaving behind him children's children who may minister 
to the gods in his stead."[3] 

This religious exaltation of the family profoundly affects men's attitude to marriage 
and the sexual aspects of life in general. It is not limited, as is often supposed, to 
the idealization of the possessive male as father and head of the household; it 
equally transforms the conception of womanhood. It was the patriarchal family 
which created those spiritual ideals of motherhood and virginity which have had so 
deep an influence on the moral development of culture. No doubt the deification of 
womanhood through the worship of the Mother Goddess had its origin in the 
ancient matrilinear societies. But the primitive Mother Goddess is a barbaric and 
formidable deity who embodies the ruthless fecundity of nature, and her rites are 
usually marked by licentiousness and cruelty. It was the patriarchal culture which 
transformed this sinister goddess into the gracious figures of Demeter and 
Persephone and Aphrodite, and which created those higher types of divine virginity 
which we see in Athene, the giver of good counsel, and Artemis, the guardian of 

The patriarchal society was in fact the creator of those moral ideas which have 
entered so deeply into the texture of civilization that they have become a part of 
our thought. Not only the names of piety and chastity, honour and modesty, but the 
values for which they stand are derived from this source, so that even where the 
patriarchal family has passed away we are still dependent on the moral tradition 
that it created. [4] Consequently, we find that the existing world civilizations from 
Europe to China are all founded on the tradition of the patriarchal family. It is to 
this that they owed the social strength which enabled them to prevail over the old 
cultures of matrilinear type which, alike in Europe and in Western Asia, in China 
and in India, had preceded the coming of the great classical cultures. Moreover, the 
stability of the latter has proved to be closely dependent on the preservation of the 
patriarchal ideal. A civilization like that of China, in which the patriarchal family 
remained the corner-stone of society and the foundation of religion and ethics, has 
preserved its cultural traditions for more than 2,000 years without losing its 
vitality. In the classical cultures of the Mediterranean world, however, this was not 
the case. Here the patriarchal family failed to adapt itself to the urban conditions of 
the Hellenistic civilization, and consequently the whole culture lost its stability. 
Conditions of life both in the Greek city state and in the Roman Empire favoured 
the man without a family who could devote his whole energies to the duties and 
pleasures of public life. Late marriages and small families became the rule, and 
men satisfied their sexual instincts by homosexuality or by relations with slaves 
and prostitutes. This aversion to marriage and the deliberate restriction of the 
family by the practice of infanticide and abortion was undoubtedly the main cause 

of the decline of ancient Greece, as Polybius pointed out in the second century 
B.C. [5] And the same factors were equally powerful in the society of the Empire, 
where the citizen class even in the provinces was extraordinarily sterile and was 
recruited not by natural increase, but by the constant introduction of alien 
elements, above all from the servile class. Thus the ancient world lost its roots 
alike in the family and in the land and became prematurely withered. 
The reconstitution of Western civilization was due to the coming of Christianity 
and the re-establishment of the family on a new basis. Though the Christian ideal 
of the family owes much to the patriarchal tradition which finds such a complete 
expression in the Old Testament, it was in several respects a new creation that 
differed essentially from anything that had previously existed. While the 
patriarchal family in its original form was an aristocratic institution which was the 
privilege of a ruling race or a patrician class, the Christian family was common to 
every class, even to the slaves. [6] Still more important was the fact that the Church 
insisted for the first time on the mutual and bilateral character of sexual 
obligations. The husband belonged to the wife as exclusively as the wife to the 
husband. This rendered marriage a more personal and individual relation than it 
had been under the patriarchal system. The family was no longer a subsidiary 
member of a larger unity-the kindred or "gens." It was an autonomous self- 
contained unit which owed nothing to any power outside itself. 
It is precisely this character of exclusiveness and strict mutual obligation which is 
the chief ground of objection among the modern critics of Christian morality. But 
whatever may be thought of it, there can be no doubt that the resultant type of 
monogamous and indissoluble marriage has been the foundation of European 
society and has conditioned the whole development of our civilization. No doubt it 
involves a very severe effort of repression and discipline, but its upholders would 
maintain that it has rendered possible an achievement which could never have been 
equalled under the laxer conditions of polygamous or main-linear societies. There 
is no historical justification of Bertrand Russell's belief that the Christian attitude 
to marriage has had a brutalizing effect on sexual relations and has degraded the 
position of woman below even the level of ancient civilization: on the contrary, 
women have always had a wider share in social life and a greater influence on 
civilization in Europe than was the case either in Hellenic or oriental society. And 
this is in part due to those very ideals of asceticism and chastity which Bertrand 
Russell regards as the source of all our troubles. For in a Catholic civilization the 
patriarchal ideal is counterbalanced by the ideal of virginity. The family for all its 
importance does not control the whole existence of its members. The spiritual side 
of life belongs to a spiritual society in which all authority is reserved to a celibate 
class. Thus in one of the most important aspects of life the sexual relation is 
transcended, and husband and wife stand on an equal footing. I believe that this is 

the chief reason why the feminine element has achieved fuller expression in 
Catholic culture and why, even at the present day, the feminine revolt against the 
restrictions of family life is so much less marked in Catholic society than 

In Protestant Europe, on the other hand, the Reformation, by abandoning the ideal 
of virginity and by the destruction of monasticism and of the independent authority 
of the Church, accentuated the masculine element in the family. The Puritan spirit, 
nourished on the traditions of the Old Testament, created a new patriarchalism and 
made the family the religious as well as the social basis of society. Civilization lost 
its communal and public character and became private and domestic. And yet, by a 
curious freak of historical development, it was this Puritan and patriarchal society 
which gave birth to the new economic order which now threatens to destroy the 
family. Industrialism grew up, not in the continental centres of urban culture, but in 
the most remote districts of rural England, in the homes of nonconformist weavers 
and ironworkers. The new industrial society was entirely destitute of the communal 
spirit and of the civic traditions which had marked the ancient and the mediaeval 
city. It existed simply for the production of wealth and left every other side of life 
to private initiative. Although the old rural culture, based on the household as an 
independent economic unit, was passing away for ever, the strict ethos of the 
Puritan family continued to rule men's lives. 

This explains the anomalies of the Victorian period both in England and America. 
It was essentially an age of transition. Society had already entered on a phase of 
intense urban industrialism, while still remaining faithful to the patriarchal ideals 
of the old Puritan tradition. Both Puritan morality and industrial mass economy 
were excessive and one-sided developments, and when the two were brought 
together in one society they inevitably produced an impossible situation. 
The problem that faces us today is, therefore, not so much the result of an 
intellectual revolt against the traditional Christian morality; it is due to the inherent 
contradictions of an abnormal state of culture. The natural tendency, which is even 
more clearly visible in America than in England, is for the Puritan tradition to be 
abandoned and for society to give itself up passively to the machinery of modern 
cosmopolitan life. But this is no solution. It leads merely to the breaking down of 
the old structure of society and the loss of the traditional moral standards without 
creating anything which can take their place. As in the decline of the ancient world, 
the family is steadily losing its form and its social significance, and the state 
absorbs more and more of the life of its members. The home is no longer a centre 
of social activity; it has become merely a sleeping place for a number of 
independent wage-earners. The functions which were formerly fulfilled by the 
head of the family are now being taken over by the state, which educates the 
children and takes the responsibility for their maintenance and health. 

Consequently, the father no longer holds a vital position in the family: as Mr. 
Bertrand Russell says, he is often a comparative stranger to his children, who know 
him only as "that man who comes for week-ends." Moreover, the reaction against 
the restrictions of family life which in the ancient world was confined to the males 
of the citizen class, is today common to every class and to both sexes. To the 
modern girl marriage and motherhood appear not as the conditions of a wider life, 
as they did to her grandmother, but as involving the sacrifice of her independence 
and the abandonment of her career. 

The only remaining safeguards of family life in modern urban civilization are its 
social prestige and the sanctions of moral and religious tradition. Marriage is still 
the only form of sexual union which is openly tolerated by society, and the 
ordinary man and woman are usually ready to sacrifice their personal convenience 
rather than risk social ostracism. But if we accept the principles of the new 
morality, this last safeguard will be destroyed and the forces of dissolution will be 
allowed to operate unchecked. It is true that Mr. Russell, at least, is willing to leave 
us the institution of marriage, on condition that it is strictly demoralized and no 
longer makes any demands on continence. But it is obvious that these conditions 
reduce marriage to a very subordinate position. It is no longer the exclusive or even 
the normal form of sexual relations: it is entirely limited to the rearing of children. 
For, as Mr. Russell is never tired of pointing out, the use of contraceptives has 
made sexual intercourse independent of parenthood, and the marriage of the future 
will be confined to those who seek parenthood for its own sake rather than as the 
natural fulfilment of sexual love. But under these circumstances who will trouble 
to marry? Marriage will lose all attractions for the young and the pleasure-loving 
and the poor and the ambitious. The energy of youth will be devoted to 
contraceptive love and only when men and women have become prosperous and 
middle-aged will they think seriously of settling down to rear a strictly limited 

It is impossible to imagine a system more contrary to the first principles of social 
well-being. So far from helping modern society to surmount its present difficulties, 
it only precipitates the crisis. It must lead inevitably to a social decadence far more 
rapid and more universal than that which brought about the disintegration of 
ancient civilization. The advocates of birth-control can hardly fail to realize the 
consequences of a progressive decline of the population in a society in which it is 
already almost stationary, but for all that their propaganda is entirely directed 
towards a further diminution in the birth rate. Many of them, like Dr. Stopes, are no 
doubt so much concerned with the problem of individual happiness that they do not 
stop to consider how the race is to be carried on. Others, such as Mr. Russell, are 
obsessed by the idea that over-population is the main cause of war and that a 
diminishing birth rate is the best guarantee of international peace. There is, 

however, nothing in history to justify this belief. The largest and most prolific 
populations, such as the Chinese and the Hindus, have always been singularly 
unaggressive. The most warlike peoples are usually those who are relatively 
backward in culture and few in numbers, like the Huns and the Mongols, or the 
English in the fifteenth century, the Swedes in the seventeenth century, and the 
Prussians in the eighteenth century. If, however, questions of population should 
give rise to war in the future, there can be no doubt that it is nations with wide 
possessions and a dwindling population who will be most likely to provoke an 
attack. But it is much more likely that the process will be a peaceful one. The 
peoples who allow the natural bases of society to be destroyed by the artificial 
conditions of the new urban civilization will gradually disappear and their place 
will be taken by those populations which live under simpler conditions and 
preserve the traditional forms of the family. 

1 B. Malinowski, Sex and Repression in Savage Society (1927), p. 213. 

2 Malinowski, op. cit, p .182. 

3 Laws, 773 F. 

4 For this reason the Catholic Church has always associated its teaching on marriage with the 
patriarchal tradition, and even today she still concludes the marriage service with the ancient 
patriarchal benediction: "May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, be 
with you and may he fulfill his blessing upon you that you may see your children's children even 
to the third and fourth generation." 

5 He writes that in his days the diminution of population in Greece was so great that the towns 
were becoming deserted and the fields untilled. The reason of this is neither war nor pestilence, 
but because men "owing to vanity, avarice or cowardice, no longer wish to marry or to bring up 
children." In Boeotia especially he notes a tendency for men to leave their property to clubs for 
public benefactions instead of leaving it to their heirs, "so that the Boeotians often have more 
free dinners than there are days in the month." Polyb., Books XXXVI, 17, and XX, 6. 

6 The same change, however, has taken place in China, where, owing to the influence of 
Confucianism, the whole population has gradually acquired the family institutions which were 
originally peculiar to the members of the feudal nobility. 


"Stages in Mankind's Religious Experience," from Chapters II and 
III of Christianity and the New Age, "Humanism and Relgious 
Experience," and "The Claim of Christianity" (1931); reprinted in 
Dynamics of World History (1958), pp. 167-188. 

EVEN the crudest and most primitive forms of religion possess an 

element of transcendence without which they would cease to be 
religion. For since religion is the bond between man and God, 
between human society and the spiritual world, it always has a 
twofold aspect. To the outsider, whether he be a traveller or a 
rational critic, primitive religions seem like a dead weight of so- 
cial convention and superstition which prevents the society from 
advancing; to the primitive himself, however, it is the Way of the 
Gods, the traditional consecrated order which brings human life 
into communion with the higher powers; and we see from the 
history of more developed religions that the most simple and ele- 
mentary religious practices are capable, not merely of becoming 
charged with religious emotion, but of becoming the vehicle of 
profound religious ideas, as for example the ritual of sacrifice in 
ancient India or the ceremonial ordering of the calendar in an- 
cient China. 

On the other hand, when we come to the higher religions 
where there is a conscious effort to assert the absolute transcen- 
dence of God and the spiritual order, we still do not find any 
complete divorce between religion and culture. Even Buddhism, 
which seems at first sight to turn its back on human life and con- 
demn all the natural values on which human culture is built, 
[168] nevertheless has as great an influence on culture and impresses 
its character on the social life of the Tibetans or the Singalese no 
less than a religion which adopts a frankly positive, or as we say 
"pagan," attitude towards nature and human life. Religions of 
this type do, however, bring out more clearly the element of ten- 
sion and conflict in the relation between religion and culture, 
which it is easy to ignore in a primitive religion which seems com- 
pletely fused and identified with the social pattern. 

Thus there are two factors to be considered in relation to any 
religion. Just as it is possible to conceive of a religion which will 
satisfy man's religious needs without being applicable to the so- 
cial situation of modern Europe as, for example, in Buddhism, 
so we can construct, at least in theory, a religion which would be 
adapted to the social needs of modern civilization, but which 
would be incapable of satisfying the purely religious demands of 
the human spirit. Such a religion was constructed with admirable 
ingenuity and sociological knowledge by Comte in the nine- 

teenth century, and it proved utterly lacking in religious vitality, 
and consequently also in human appeal. And a similar experi- 
ment which is being carried out with far less knowledge and 
greater passion by the modern Communists in Russia threatens 
to be even more sterile and inimical to man's spiritual personality. 
It is useless to judge a religion from the point of view of the 
politician or the social reformer. We shall never create a living 
religion merely as a means to an end, a way out of our practical 
difficulties. For the religious view of life is the opposite to the 
utilitarian. It regards the world and human life sub specie aeterni- 
tatis. It is only by accepting the religious point of view, by regard- 
ing religion as an end in itself and not as a means to something 
else, that we can discuss religious problems profitably. It may be 
said that this point of view belongs to the past, and that we can- 
not return to it. But neither can we escape from it. The past is 
simply the record of the experience of humanity, and if that ex- 
perience testifies to the existence of a permanent human need, 
that need must manifest itself in the future no less than in the 

[169] What, then, is man's essential religious need, judging by the 
experience of the past? There is an extraordinary degree of unan- 
imity in the response, although, of course, it is not complete. One 
answer is God, the supernatural, the transcendent; the other an- 
swer is deliverance, salvation, eternal life. And both these two ele- 
ments are represented in some form or other in any given religion. 
The religion of ancient Israel, for example, may seem to concen- 
trate entirely on the first of these two elements — the reality of 
God - and to have nothing to say about the immortality of the 
soul and the idea of eternal life. Yet the teachings of the prophets 
is essentially a doctrine of salvation — a social and earthly salva- 
tion, it is true, but nevertheless a salvation which is essentially re- 
ligious and related to the eternal life of God. Again, Buddhism 
seems to leave no room for God and to put the whole emphasis 
of its teaching on the second element ~ deliverance. Nevertheless, 
it is based, as much as any religion can be, on the idea of Tran- 
scendence. Indeed, it was an exaggerated sense of Transcendence 
that led to its negative attitude towards the ideas of God and the 
Soul. "We affirm something of God, in order not to affirm 
nothing," says the Catholic theologian. The Buddhist went a step 

further on the via negativa and preferred to say nothing. 

Now, a concentration on these two specifically religious needs 
produces an attitude to life totally opposed to the practical utili- 
tarian outlook of the ordinary man. The latter regards the world 
of man the world of sensible experience and social activity as 
the one reality, and is sceptical of anything that lies beyond, 
whether in the region of pure thought or of spiritual experience, 
not to speak of religious faith. The religious man, on the con- 
trary, turns his scepticism against the world of man. He is con- 
scious of the existence of another and greater world of spiritual 
reality in which we live and move and have our being, though it is 
hidden from us by the veil of sensible things. He may even think, 
like Newman, that the knowledge of the senses has a merely sym- 
bolic value; that "the whole series of impressions made on us by 
the senses may be but a Divine economy suited to our need, and 
the token of realities distinct from them, and such as might be re- 
[170] vealed to us, nay, more perfectly, by other senses as different 
from our existing ones as they are from one another" [1] 

The one ultimate reality is the Being of God, and the world of 
man and nature itself are only real in so far as they have their 
ground and principle of being in the supreme reality. In the 
words of a French writer of the seventeenth century: "It is the 
presence of God that, without cessation, draws the creation from 
the abyss of its own nothingness above which His omnipotence 
holds it suspended, lest of its own weight it should fall bade 
therein; and serves as the mortar and bond of connection which 
holds it together in order that all that it has of its Creator should 
not waste and flow away like water that is not kept in its chan- 

Thus, although God is not myself, nor a part of my being, 

yet the relation of dependence that my life, my powers, and my 
operations bear to His Presence is more absolute, more essential, 
and more intimate than any relation I can have to the natural 
principles without which I could not exist ... I draw my life 
from His Living Life . . . ; I am, I understand, I will, I act, I 
imagine, I smell, I taste, I touch, I see, I walk, and I love in the 

Infinite Being of God, within the Divine Essence and sub- 
stance. . . . 

God in the heavens is more my heaven than the heavens 
themselves; in the sun He is more my light than the sun; in the 
air He is more my air than the air that I breathe sensibly. . . . 
He works in me all that I am, all that I see, all that I do or can do, 
as most intimate, most present, and most immanent in me, as the 
super-essential Author and Principle of my works, without whom 
we should melt away and disappear from ourselves and from our 
own activities" [2] 

Or again, to quote Cardinal Bona, God is "the Ocean of all 
essence and existence, the very Being itself which contains all 

1 University Sermons, p. 350. In this remarkable passage he develops a 
parallelism between the symbolic character of sensible knowledge and that of 
mathematical calculi and musical notation. 

2 Chardon, la Croix de Jesus, pp. 422, 423, in Bremond, Histoire 
du sentiment religieux en France, viii, pp. 21-22. 

[171] being. From Him all things depend; they flow out from Him 
and flow back to Him and are in so far as they participate in His 

Thus the whole universe is, as it were, the shadow of God, and 
has its being in the contemplation or reflection of the Being of 
God. The spiritual nature reflects the Divine consciously, while 
the animal nature is a passive and unconscious mirror. Neverthe- 
less, even the life of the animal is a living manifestation of the 
Divine, and the flight of the hawk or the power of the bull is an 
unconscious prayer. Man alone stands between these two king- 
doms in the strange twilight world of rational consciousness. He 
possesses a kind of knowledge which transcends the sensible with- 
out reaching the intuition of the Divine. 

It is only the mystic who can escape from this twilight world; 
who, in Sterry's words, can "descry a glorious eternity in a winged 
moment of Time a bright Infinite in the narrow point of an 

object, who knows what Spirit means that spire-top whither all 
things ascend harmoniously, where they meet and sit connected 
in an unfathomed Depth of Life." But the mystic is not the 
normal man; he is one who has transcended, at least momentarily, 
the natural limits of human knowledge. The ordinary man is by 
his nature immersed in the world of sense, and uses his reason in 
order to subjugate the material world to his own ends, to satisfy 
his appetites and to assert his will. He lives on the animal plane 
with a more than animal consciousness and purpose, and in so 
far, he is less religious than the animal. The life of pure spirit is 
religious, and the life of the animal is also religious, since it is 
wholly united with the life-force that is its highest capacity of 
being. Only man is capable of separating himself alike from God 
and from nature, of making himself his last end and living a 
purely self-regarding and irreligious existence. 

And yet the man who deliberately regards self-assertion and 
sensual enjoyment as his sole ends, and finds complete satisfac- 
tion in them the pure materialist is not typical; he is almost as 
tare as the mystic. The normal man has an obscure sense of the 
existence of a spiritual reality and a consciousness of the evil and 

3 Bona, Via Compendii ad Deum. 

[172] misery of an existence which is the slave of sensual impulse 
and self-interest and which must inevitably end in physical suffering 
and death. But how is he to escape from this wheel to which he 
is bound by the accumulated weight of his own acts and desires? 
How is he to bring his life into vital relation with that spiritual 
reality of which he is but dimly conscious and which transcends 
all the categories of his thought and the conditions of human ex- 
perience? This is the fundamental religious problem which has 
perplexed and baffled the mind of man from the beginning and is, 
in a sense, inherent in his nature. 

I have intentionally stated the problem in its fullest and most 
classical form, as it has been formulated by the great minds of 
our own civilization, since the highest expression of an idea is 
usually also the most explicit and the most intelligible. But, as 
the writers whom I have quoted would themselves maintain, 

there is nothing specifically Christian about it. It is common to 
Christianity and to Platonism, and to the religious traditions of 
the ancient East. It is the universal attitude of the anima natur- 
aliter Christiana, of that nature which the mediaeval mystics 
term "noble," because it is incapable of resting satisfied with a 
finite or sensible good. It is "natural religion" not, indeed, after 
the manner of the religion of naturalism that we have already 
mentioned, but in the true sense of the word. 

It is, of course, obvious that such conceptions of spiritual 
reality presuppose a high level of intellectual development and 
that we cannot expect to find them in a pre-philosophic stage of 
civilization. Nevertheless, however far back we go in history, and 
however primitive is the type of culture, we do find evidence for 
the existence of specifically religious needs and ideas of the super- 
natural which are the primitive prototypes or analogues of the 
conceptions which we have just described. 

Primitive man believes no less firmly than the religious man 
of the higher civilizations in the existence of a spiritual world 
upon which the visible world and the life of man are dependent 
Indeed, this spiritual world is often more intensely realized and 
more constantly present to his mind than is the case with civil- 
ized man. He has not attained to the conception of an autono- 
[173] mous natural order, and consequently supernatural forces are 
liable to interpose themselves at every moment of his existence. 
At first sight the natural and the supernatural, the material and 
the spiritual, seem inextricably confused. Nevertheless, even in 
primitive nature-worship, the object of religious emotion and 
worship is never the natural phenomenon as such, but always the 
supernatural power which is obscurely felt to be present in and 
working through the natural object. 

The essential difference between the religion of the primitive 
and that of civilized man is that for the latter the spiritual world 
has become a cosmos, rendered intelligible by philosophy and 
ethical by the tradition of the world religions, whereas to the 
primitive it is a spiritual chaos in which good and evil, high and 
low, rational and irrational elements are confusedly mingled. 
Writers on primitive religion have continually gone astray 

through their attempts to reduce the spiritual world of the primi- 
tive to a single principle, to find a single cause from which the 
whole development may be explained and rendered intelligible. 
Thus Tylor finds the key in the belief in ghosts, Durkheim in the 
theory of an impersonal mana which is the exteriorization of the 
collective mind, and Frazer in the technique of magic. But in 
reality there is no single aspect of primitive religion that can be 
isolated and regarded as the origin of all the rest. The spiritual 
world of the primitive is far less unified than that of civilized man 
High gods, nature spirits, the ghosts of the dead, malevolent de- 
mons, and impersonal supernatural forces and substances may all 
coexist in it without forming any kind of spiritual system or hier- 
archy. Every primitive culture will tend to lay the religious em- 
phasis on some particular point In Central Africa witchcraft and 
the cult of ghosts may overshadow everything else; among the 
hunters of North America the emphasis may be laid on the vision- 
ary experience of the individual, and the cult of aniipal guardians; 
and among the Hamitic peoples the sky-god takes the foremost 
place. But it is dangerous to conclude that the point on which at- 
tention is focussed is the whole field of consciousness. The high 
gods are often conceived as too far from man to pay much atten- 
tion to his doings, and it is lesser powers - the spirits of the field 
[174] and the forest, or the ghosts of the dead who come into 
closest relation with human life, and whose malevolence is most 
to be feared. 

Consequently primitive religion is apt to appear wholly utili- 
tarian and concerned with purely material ends. But here also the 
confusion of primitive thought is apt to mislead us. The ethical 
aspect of religion is not consciously recognized and cultivated as 
it is by civilized man, but it is none the less present in an obscure 
way. Primitive religion is essentially an attempt to bring man's 
life into relation with, and under the sanctions of, that other 
world of mysterious and sacred powers, whose action is always 
conceived as the ultimate and fundamental law of life. Moreover, 
the sense of sin and of the need for purification or catharsis is 
very real to primitive man. No doubt sin appears to him as a kind 
of physical contagion that seems to us of little moral value. 
Nevertheless, as we can see from the history of Greek religion, 
the sense of ritual defilement and that of moral guilt are very 

closely linked with one another, and the idea of an essential con- 
nection between moral and physical evil between sin and death, 
for example is found in the higher religions no less than among 
the primitives. Libera nos a malo is a universal prayer which an- 
swers to one of the oldest needs of human nature. 

But the existence of this specifically religious need in primitive 
man in other words, the naturalness of the religious attitude- 
is widely denied at the present day. It is maintained that primi- 
tive man is a materialist and that the attempt to find in primitive 
religion an obscure sense of the reality of spirit, or, indeed, any- 
thing remotely analogous to the religious experience of civilized 
man, is sheer metaphysical theorizing. This criticism is partly due 
to a tendency to identify any recognition of the religious element 
in primitive thought and culture with the particular theories of 
religious origins which have been put forward by Tyler and Durk- 
heim. In reality, however, the theories of the latter have much 
more in common with those of the modern writers whom I have 
mentioned than any of them have with the point of view of writ- 
ers who recognize the objective and autonomous character of tc- 
ligion. All of them show that anti-metaphysical prejudice which 
[175] has been so general during the last generation or two, and which 
rejects on a priori grounds any objective interpretation of reli- 
gious experience. On the Continent there is already a reaction 
against the idea of a "science of religion" which, unlike the other 
sciences, destroys its own object and leaves us with a residuum of 
facts that belong to a totally different order. In fact, recent Ger- 
man writers such as Otto, Heiler, and Carl Beth tend rather to 
exaggerate the mystical and intuitive character of religious experi- 
ence, whether in its primitive or advanced manifestations. But in 
this country the anti-metaphysical prejudice is still dominant. A 
theory is not regarded as "scientific" unless it explains religion in 
terms of something else as an artificial construction from non- 
religious elements. 

Thus Professor Perry writes: "The idea of deity has grown up 
with civilization itself, and in its beginnings it was constructed 
out of the most homely materials." He holds that religion was de- 
rived not from primitive speculation or symbolism nor from spir- 
itual experience, but from a practical observation of the phenom- 

ena of life. Its origins are to be found in the association of certain 
substances, such as red earth, shells, crystals, etc., with the ideas 
of life and fertility and their use as amulets or fetishes in order to 
prolong life or to increase the sexual powers. From these begin- 
nings religion was developed as a purely empirical system of en- 
suring material prosperity by the archaic culture in Egypt and was 
thence gradually diffused throughout the world by Egyptian 
treasure-seekers and megalith-builders. The leaders of these expe- 
ditions became the first gods, while the Egyptian practices of 
mummification and tomb-building were the source of all those 
ideas concerning the nature of the soul and the existence of a 
spiritual world that are found among primitive peoples. 

It is needless for us to discuss the archaeological aspects of this 
pan-Egyptian hypothesis of cultural origins. From our present 
point of view the main objection to the theory lies in the naive 
Euhemerism of its attitude to religion. For even if we grant that 
the whole development of higher civilization has proceeded from 
a single centre, that is a very different thing from admitting that 
a fundamental type of human experience could ever find its ori- 
[176] gin in a process of cultural diffusion. It is not as though Pro- 
fessor Perry maintained that primitive man lived a completely animal 
existence before the coming of the higher culture. On the con- 
trary, the whole tendency of his thought has been to vindicate 
the essential humanity of the primitive. It is the claim of "the 
new anthropology" that it rehabilitates human nature itself and 
"disentangles the original nature of man from the systems, tra- 
dition, and machinery of civilization which have modified it. "[4] 
If, then, primitive man is non-religious, the conclusion follows 
that human nature itself is non-religious, and religion, like war, 
is an artificial product of later development. 

But this conclusion has been reached only by the forced con- 
struction that has been arbitrarily put upon the evidence. Be- 
cause the primitive fetish has no more religious value for us than 
the mascot that we put on our motor-cars, we assume that it can 
have meant nothing more to primitive man. This, however, is to 
fall into the same error for which Mr. Massingham rightly con- 
demns the older anthropology the neglect of the factor of de- 
generation. Our mascot is a kind of fetish, but it is a degenerate 

fetish, and it is degenerate precisely because it has lost its religious 
meaning. The religious man no longer uses mascots, though if he 
is a Catholic he may use the image of a saint. To the primitive 
man his fetish is more than the one and less than the other. It 
has the sanctity of a relic and the irrationality of a mascot. Pro- 
fessor Lowie has described how an Indian offered to show him 
"the greatest thing in the world"; how he reverently uncovered 
one cloth wrapper after another; and how at length there lay ex- 
posed a simple bunch of feathers a mere nothing to the alien 
onlooker, but to the owner a badge of his covenant with the super- 
natural world. "It is easy," he says, "to speak of the veneration 
extended to such badges ... as fetishism, but that label with its 
popular meaning is monstrously inadequate to express the psy- 
chology of the situation. For to the Indian the material object is 
nothing apart from its sacred associations. "[5] 

4 H. J. Massingham, The Heritage of Man, p. 142. 

5 R. H. Lowie, Primitive Religion, p. 19. 

[177] So, too, when Mr. Massingham speaks of primitive religion as 
"a purely supernatural machinery, controlled by man, for insuring 
the material welfare of the community," he is right in his descrip- 
tion of facts, but wrong in his appreciation of values. To us, agri- 
culture is merely a depressed industry which provides the raw 
material of our dinners, and so we assume that a religion that is 
largely concerned with agriculture must have been a sordid ma- 
terialistic business. But this is entirely to misconceive primitive 
man's attitude to nature. To him, agriculture was not a sordid 
occupation; it was one of the supreme mysteries of life, and he 
surrounded it with religious rites because he believed that the fer- 
tility of the soil and the mystery of generation could only be en- 
sured through the co-operation of higher powers. Primitive agri- 
culture was in fact a kind of liturgy. 

For us nature has lost this religious atmosphere because the 
latter has been transferred elsewhere. Civilization did not create 
the religious attitude or the essential nature of the religious ex- 
perience, but it gave them new modes of expression and a new 
intellectual interpretation. This was the achievement of the great 
religions or religious philosophies that arose in all the main cen- 

tres of ancient civilization about the middle of the first millen- 
nium B.C. [6] They attained to the two fundamental concepts of 
metaphysical being and ethical order, which have been the foun- 
dation of religious thought and the framework of religious experi- 
ence ever since. Some of these movements of thought, such as 
Brahmanism, Taoism, and the Eleatic philosophy, concentrated 
their attention on the idea of Being, while others, such as Bud- 
dhism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, and the philosophy of 
Heraclitus, emphasized the idea of moral order; but all of them 
agreed in identifying the cosmic principle, the power behind the 
world, with a spiritual principle, conceived either as the source of 
being or as the source of ethical order. [7] Primitive man had already 
found the Transcendent immanent in and working through na- 

6 I have discussed this movement at greater length in Progress and Reli- 
gion, ch. vi. 

7 This may not appear obvious in the case of Buddhism. It is, however, 
implicit in the doctrine of Karma as the ground of the world process. 

[178] ture as the supernatural. The new religions found it in thought 
as the supreme Reality and in ethics as the Eternal Law. And conse- 
quently, while the former still saw the spiritual world diffused 
and confused with the world of matter, the latter isolated it and 
set it over against the world of human experience, as Eternity 
against Time, as the Absolute against the Contingent, as Reality 
against Appearance, and as the Spiritual against the Sensible. 

This was indeed the discovery of a new world for the religious 
consciousness. It was thereby liberated from the power of the 
nature daimons and the dark forces of magic and translated to a 
higher sphere — to the Brahma-world — "where there is not dark- 
ness, nor day nor night, nor being nor not-being, but the Eternal 
alone, the source of the ancient wisdom" to the Kingdom of 
Ahura and the Six Immortal Holy Ones, to the world of the 
Eternal Forms, the true home of the soul. And this involved a 
corresponding change in the religious attitude. The religious life 
was no longer bound up with irrational myths and non-moral 
tabus; it was a process of spiritual discipline directed towards the 
purification of the mind and the will a conversion of the soul 
from the life of the senses to spiritual reality. The religious experi- 

ence of primitive man had become obscured by magic and diabo- 
lism, and the visions and trances of the Shaman belong rather to 
the phenomena of Spiritualism than of mysticism. The new type 
of religious experience, on the other hand, had reached a higher 
plane. It consisted in an intuition that was essentially spiritual 
and found its highest realization in the vision of the mystic. 

Thus each of the new religio-philosophic traditions — Brahman- 
ism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Platonism — ultimately transcends 
philosophy and culminates in mysticism. They are not satisfied 
with the demonstration of the Absolute; they demand the experi- 
ence of the Absolute also, whether it be the vision of the Essential 
Good and the Essential Beauty, through which the soul is made 
deiform, or that intuition of the nothingness and illusion inher- 
ent in all contingent being which renders a man jivana mukti, 
"delivered alive." But how is such an experience conceivable? It 
seems to be a contradiction in terms — to know the Unknowable, 
to grasp the Incomprehensible, to receive the Infinite, Certainly 
[179] it transcends the categories of human thought and the normal 
conditions of human experience. Yet it has remained for thou- 
sands of years as the goal—whether attainable or unattainable — 
of the religious life; and no religion which ignores this aspiration 
can prove permanently satisfying to man's spiritual needs. The 
whole religious experience of mankind indeed, the very exist- 
ence of religion itself testifies, not only to a sense of the Tran- 
scendent, but to an appetite for the Transcendent that can only 
be satisfied by immediate contact - by a vision of the supreme 
Reality. It is the goal of the intellect as well as of the will, for, as a 
Belgian philosopher has said, "The human mind is a faculty in 
quest of its intuition, that is to say, of assimilation with Being" 
and it is "perpetually chased from the movable, manifold and de- 
ficient towards the Absolute, the One and the Infinite, that is, 
towards Being pure and simple."[8] 

A religion that remains on the rational level and denies the pos- 
sibility of any real relation with a higher order of spiritual reality, 
fails in its most essential function, and ultimately, like Deism, 
ceases to be a religion at all. It may perhaps be objected that this 
view involves the identification of religion with mysticism, and 
that it would place a philosophy of intuition like that of the Ve- 

danta higher than a religion of faith and supernatural revelation, 
like Christianity. In reality, however, the Christian insistence on 
the necessity of faith and revelation implies an even higher con- 
ception of transcendence than that of the oriental religions. Faith 
transcends the sphere of rational knowledge even more than 
metaphysical intuition, and brings the mind into close contact 
with super-intelligible reality. Yet faith also, at least when it is 
joined with spiritual intelligence, is itself a kind of obscure intui- 
tion — a foretaste of the unseen[9] — and it also has its culmination 
in the mystical experience by which these obscure spiritual reali- 
ties are realized experimentally and intuitively. 

Thus Christianity is in agreement with the great oriental reli- 
gions and with Platonism in its goal of spiritual intuition, though 

8 J. Marechal, Studies in the Psychology of the Mystics, trans. Algar 
Thorold (Benziger, 1927), pp. 101, 133. 

9 Cf. Rousselot, Les Yeux de la Foi. 

[180] it places the full realization of the goal at a further and higher 
stage of spiritual development than the rest. For all of them reli- 
gion is not an affair of the emotions, but of the intelligence. Reli- 
gious knowledge is the highest kind of knowledge, the end and 
coronation of the whole process of man's intellectual develop- 

If we accept the necessity of an absolute and metaphysical 
foundation for religion and religious experience, we still have to 
face the other aspect of the problem namely, how this spiritual 
experience is to be brought into living relation with human life 
and with the social order. The ecstasy of the solitary mind in the 
presence of absolute reality seems to offer no solution to the ac- 
tual sufferings and perplexities of humanity. And yet the religious 
mind cannot dissociate itself from this need, for it can never rest 
with a purely individual and self-regarding ideal of deliverance. 
The more religious a man is, the more is he sensitive to the com- 
mon need of humanity. All the founders of the world religions- 
even those, like Buddha, who were the most uncompromising in 
their religious absolutism were concerned not merely with their 
private religious experience, but with the common need of hu- 

manity. They aspired to be the saviours and path-finders ford- 
makers, as the Indians termed them who should rescue their 
people from the darkness and suffering of human life. 

Nowhere is this social preoccupation more insistent than in the 
religious tradition of the West, and it is to be found even in the 
most abstract and intellectualist type of religious thought It is to 
be seen above all in Plato, the perfect example of the pure meta- 
physician, who, nevertheless, made his metaphysics the basis of a 
programme of political and social reform. Indeed, according to 
his own description in the Seventh Epistle it was his political in- 
terests and his realization of the injustice and moral confusion of 
the existing state which were the starting point of his metaphysi- 
cal quest. But though Plato realized as fully as any purely reli- 
gious teacher the need for bringing social life into contact with 
spiritual reality and for relating roan's rational activity to the 
higher intuitive knowledge, he failed to show how this could be 
accomplished by means of a purely intellectual discipline. He saw 
[181] that it was necessary on the one hand to drag humanity out of 
the shadow world of appearances and false moral standards into the 
pure white light of spiritual reality, and, on the other hand, that 
the contemplative must be forced to leave his mountain of vision 
and "to descend again to these prisoners and to partake in their 
toils and honours."[10] But, as he says, the spiritual man is at a dis- 
advantage in the world of politics and business. The eyes that 
have looked upon the sun can no longer distinguish the shadows 
of the cave. The man who cares only for eternal things, who seeks 
to fly hence and to become assimilated to God by holiness and 
justice and wisdom, is unable to strive for political power with 
the mean cunning of the ordinary "man of affairs. "[11] In fact 
nothing could show the impossibility of curing the ills of human- 
ity by pure intelligence more completely than Plato's own at- 
tempt to reform the state of Sicily by giving a young tyrant les- 
sons in mathematics. The political problems of the Greek world 
were solved not by the philosopher-king, but by condottieri and 
Macedonian generals, and the gulf between the spiritual world 
and human life grew steadily wider until the coming of Christi- 

In the East, however, the religious conception of life was vie- 

torious and dominated the whole field of culture. In India, above 
all, the ideal of spiritual intuition was not confined to a few phi- 
losophers and mystics, but became the goal of the whole religious 
development. It was, as Professor de la Vallee Poussin has said, 
"the great discovery that has remained for at least twenty-five 
centuries the capital and most cherished truth of the Indian peo- 
ple." The man who cannot understand this cannot understand 
the religion of India or the civilization with which it is so inti- 
mately connected. It is, however, only too easy for the Western 
mind to misconceive the whole tendency of Indian thought. It is 
apt to interpret the teaching of the Upanishads on the lines of 
Western idealist philosophy, and to see in the Indian doctrine of 
contemplation a philosophic pantheism that is intellectualist 
rather than religious. In reality it is in Western mystics such as 

10 Republic, 519. 

11 Theaetetus, 176. 

[182] Eckart or Angelas Silesius rather than in philosophers such 
as Hegel or even Spinoza that the true parallel to the thought of the 
Vedanta is to be found. It leads not to pantheism in our sense of 
the word, but to an extreme theory of transcendence which may 
be termed super-theism. Western pantheism is a kind of spiritual 
democracy in which all things are equally God; but the "non- 
dualism" of the Vedanta is a spiritual absolutism in which God is 
the only reality. At first sight there may seem to be little practical 
difference between the statement that everything that exists is 
divine and the statement that nothing but the divine exists. But 
from the religious point of view there is all the difference in the 
world. For "if this transitory world be the Real," says a mediaeval 
Vedantist, "then there is no liberation through the Atman, the 
holy scriptures are without authority and the Lord speaks un- 
truth. . . . The Lord who knows the reality of things has de- 
clared 'I am not contained in these things, nor do beings dwell in 

God is the one Reality. Apart from Him, nothing exists. In 
comparison with Him, nothing is real. The universe only exists in 
so far as it is rooted and grounded in His Being. He is the Self of 
our selves and the Soul of our souls. So far the Vedanta does not 

differ essentially from the teaching of Christian theology. The 
one vital distinction consists in the fact that Indian religion ig- 
nores the idea of creation and that in consequence it is faced with 
the dilemma that either the whole universe is an illusion — Maya — 
a dream that vanishes when the soul awakens to the intuition of 
spiritual reality, or else that the world is the self-manifestation of 
the Divine Mind, a conditional embodiment of the absolute 

Hence there is no room for a real intervention of the spiritual 
principle in human life. The Indian ethic is, above all, an ethic of 
flight -- of deliverance from conditional existence and from the 
chain of re-birth. Human life is an object of compassion to the 
wise man, but it is also an object of scorn. "As the hog to the 
trough, goes the fool to the womb," says the Buddhist verse; and 

12 Vivekachudamani (attributed to Sankara), trans. C. Johnston, p. 41. 

[183] the Hindu attitude, if less harsh, is not essentially different. 

Men are held by the manifold snares of the desires in the world of 
sense, and they fall away without winning to their end like dykes 
of sand in water. Like sesame- grains for their oil, all things are 
ground out in the mill-wheel of creation by the oil- grinders, to 
wit, the taints arising from ignorance that fasten upon them. The 
husband gathers to himself evil works on account of his wife; but 
he alone is therefore afflicted with taints, which cling to man 
alike in the world beyond and in this. All men are attached to 
children, wives and kin; they sink down in the slimy sea of sor- 
rows, like age-worn forest-elephants.[13] 

It is true that orthodox Hinduism inculcates the fulfilment of 
social duties, and the need for outward activity, but this principle 
does not lead to the transformation of life by moral action, but 
simply to the fatalistic acceptance of the established order of 
things. This is the theme of the greatest work of Indian literature, 
the Bhagavad-Gita, and it involves a moral attitude diametrically 
opposed to that of the Western mind. When Arjuna shrinks from 
the evils of war and declares that he would rather die than shed 
the blood of his kinsfolk, the god does not commend him. He 

uses the doctrine of the transcendence and impassibility of true 
being to justify the ruthlessness of the warrior. 

Know that that which pervades this universe is imperishable; 
there is none can make to perish that changeless being. 
. . . [Tjhis Body's Tenant for all time may not be wounded, O 
Thou of Bharata's stock, in the bodies of any beings. Therefore 
thou dost not well to sorrow for any born beings. Looking like- 
wise in thine own Law, thou shouldst not be dismayed; for to a 
knight there is no thing more blest than a lawful strife. [14] 

The sacred order that is the basis of Indian culture is no true 
spiritualization of human life; it is merely the natural order seen 
through a veil of metaphysical idealism. It can incorporate the 
most barbaric and non-ethical elements equally with the most 
profound metaphysical truths; since in the presence of the abso- 

13 Mahabharata, xii, ch. 174, trans. L. D. Barnett. 

14 Bhagavad-Gita, ii, pp. 17, 30-31, trans. L. D. Barnett. 

[184] lute and the unconditioned all distinctions and degrees of 
value lose their validity. 

The experience of India is sufficient to show that it is impos- 
sible to construct a dynamic religion on metaphysical principles 
alone, since pure intuition affords no real basis for social action. 
On the other hand, if we abandon the metaphysical element and 
content ourselves with purely ethical and social ideals, we are still 
further from a solution, since there is no longer any basis for a 
spiritual order. The unity of the inner world dissolves in subjectiv- 
ism and scepticism, and society is threatened with anarchy and 
dissolution. And since social life is impossible without order, it is 
necessary to resort to some external principle of compulsion, 
whether political or economic. In the ancient world this principle 
was found in the military despotism of the Roman Empire, and 
in the modern world we have the even more complete and far- 
reaching organization of the economic machine. Here indeed we 
have an order, but it is an order that is far more inhuman and in- 
different to moral values than the static theocratic order of tie 
Oriental religion-cultures. 

But is there no alternative between Occidentalism and Orien- 
talism, between a spiritual order that takes no account of human 
needs and a material order that has no regard for spiritual values? 
There still remains the traditional religion of our own civiliza- 
tion: Christianity, a religion that is neither wholly metaphysical 
nor merely ethical, but one that brings the spiritual world into 
vital and fruitful communion with the life of man. 

In the ancient world its faith in a holy society and in a historical 
process of redemption distinguished Christianity from all its re- 
ligious rivals and gave it the militant and unyielding quality 
that enabled it to triumph in its struggle with secular civilization. 
But this is not sufficient to explain its religious appeal. In addition 
to the social and historical side of its teaching, Christianity also 
brought a new doctrine of God and a new relation of the human 
soul to Him. Judaism had been the least mystical and the least 
metaphysical of religions. It revealed God as the Creator, the Law- 
giver and the Judge, and it was by obedience to His Law and by 
the ritual observances of sacrifice and ceremonial purity that man 
[185] entered into relations with Him, But the transformation by Jesus 
of the national community into a new universal spiritual society 
brought with it a corresponding change in the doctrine of God. 
God was no longer the national deity of the Jewish people, local- 
ized, so to speak, at Sinai and Jerusalem. He was the Father of 
the human race, the Universal Ground of existence "in Whom 
we live and move and are." And when St. Paul appealed to the 
testimony of the Stoic poet, he recognized that Christianity was 
prepared to accept the metaphysical inheritance of Hellenic 
thought as well as the historic revelation of Jewish prophecy. 

This is shown still more clearly in St. John's identification of 
the Logos and the Messiah in the prologue to the Fourth Gospel. 
Jesus of Nazareth was not only the Christ, the Son of the Living 
God; He was also the Divine Intelligence, the Principle of the 
order and intelligibility of the created world. Thus the opposition 
between the Greek ideal of spiritual intuition and the Living God 
of Jewish revelation an opposition that Philo had vainly at- 
tempted to surmount by an artificial philosophical synthesis 
finally disappeared before the new revelation of the Incarnate 

Word. As St. Augustine has said, the Fourth Gospel is essentially 
the Gospel of contemplation, for while the first three evangelists 
are concerned with the external mission of Jesus as Messianic 
King and Saviour and teach the active virtues of Christian life, St. 
John is, above all, "the theologian" who declares the mysteries of 
the Divine Nature and teaches the way of contemplation. [15] Jesus 
is the bridge between Humanity and Divinity. In Him God is not 
only manifested to man, but vitally participated. He is the Divine 
Light, which illuminates men's minds, and the Divine Life, 
which transforms human nature and makes it the partaker of Its 
own supernatural activity. 

Hence the insistence of the Fourth Gospel on the sacramental 
element in Christ's teaching, 16 since it is through the sacraments 
that the Incarnation of the Divine Word is no longer merely a 
historical fact, but is brought into vital and sensible contact with 

15 Consensu Evangelistarum 1, ch. 3-5. 

16 See John 3:5; 6:32-58. 

[186] the life of the believer. So far from being an alien magical con- 
ception superimposed from without upon the religion of the Gospel, 
it forms the very heart of Christianity, since it is only through the 
sacramental principle that the Jewish ideal of an external ritual 
cult becomes transformed into a worship of spiritual communion. 
The modern idea that sacramentalism is inconsistent with the 
"spiritual" or mystical element in religion, is as lacking in founda- 
tion as the allied belief in an opposition between religion and 
theology. It is only when we reduce theology to religious rational- 
ism and spiritual religion to a blend of ethics and emotion that 
there is no place left for sacramentalism; but under these condi- 
tions genuine mysticism and metaphysical truth equally disap- 
pear. Each of them forms an essential element in the historical 
development of Christianity. In the great age of creative theologi- 
cal thought, the development of dogma was organically linked 
with sacramentalism and mysticism. They were three aspects of a 
single reality the great mystery of the restoration, illumination 
and deification of humanity by the Incarnation of the Divine 
Word. This is clearly recognized by Ritschl and his followers 
such as Harnack, although they involve mysticism, sacramental- 

ism and scientific theology in a common condemnation. 

Nevertheless, their criticism of the development of Greek 
Christianity is not entirely unjustified, for the historical and social 
elements, on which Ritschl laid so exclusive an emphasis, form 
an integral part of the Christian tradition, and apart from them 
the mystical or metaphysical side of religion becomes sterile or 
distorted. The tendency of the Byzantine mind to concentrate 
itself on this aspect of Christianity did actually lead to a decline in 
moral energy and in the spiritual freedom and initiative of the 
Church, and Eastern Christianity has tended to become an abso- 
lute static religion of the Oriental type. 

It is true that this ideal, since it is a purely religious one, has 
much more in common with Catholic Christianity than have the 
secularized ideals of modern European culture. Catholicism and 
Orientalism stand together against the denial of metaphysical 
reality and of the primacy of the spiritual, which is the funda- 
mental Western error. As Sir Charles Eliot has truly said, "The 
[187] opposition is not so much between Indian thought and the 
New Testament. ... the fundamental contrast is rather between 
both India and the New Testament, on the one hand, and, on 
the other, the rooted conviction of European races, however 
much orthodox Christianity may disguise their expression of it, 
that this world is all-important. The conviction finds expression 
not only in the avowed pursuit of pleasure and ambition, but in 
such sayings as that the best religion is the one that does most 
good, and in such ideals as self-realization or the full development 
of one's motive and powers. Though monasteries and monks still 
exist, the great majority of Europeans instinctively disbelieve in 
asceticism, the contemplative life and contempt of the world"[17] 

And yet, for all this, there is no getting over the profound dif- 
ferences that separate Christianity from the purely metaphysical 
and intuitive type of religion. 

Against the Oriental religions of pure spirit, which denied the 
value and even the reality of the material universe, the Church 
has undeviatingly maintained its faith in a historical revelation 
that involved the consecration not only of humanity but even of 

the body itself. This was the great stumbling-block to the Orien- 
tal mind, which readily accepted the idea of an Avatar or of the 
theophany of a divine Aeon, but could not face the consequences 
of the Catholic doctrine of the Two Natures and the full human- 
ity of the Logos made flesh. This conception of the Incarnation 
as the bridge between God and Man, the marriage of Heaven and 
Earth, the channel through which the material world is spiritual- 
ized and brought back to unity, distinguishes Christianity from 
all the other Oriental religions, and involves a completely new at- 
titude to life. Deliverance is to be obtained not by a sheer disre- 
gard of physical existence and a concentration of the higher intel- 
lect on the contemplation of pure Being, but by a creative activity 
that affects every part of the composite nature of man. And this 
activity is embodied in a definite society, which shares in the di- 
vine life of the Spirit, while at the same time it belongs to the 
visible order of social and historical reality. 

17 C. Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism, Vol. I, p. 9. 

[188] Thus Catholic Christianity occupies an intermediate position 
between the two spiritual ideals and the two conceptions of real- 
ity which have divided the civilized world and the experience of 
humanity. To the West its ideals appear mystical and other- 
worldly, while in comparison with the Oriental religions it stands 
for historical reality and moral activity. It is a stranger in both 
camps and its home is everywhere and nowhere, like man himself, 
whose nature maintains a perilous balance between the worlds of 
spiritual and sensible reality, to neither of which it altogether be- 
longs. Yet by reason of this ambiguous position the Catholic 
Church stands as the one mediator between East and West, be- 
tween the ideal of spiritual intuition and that of moral and social 
activity. She alone possesses a tradition that is capable of satisfying 
the whole of human nature and one that brings the transcendent 
reality of spiritual Being into relation with human experience 
and the realities of social life. 


"The Christian View of History," 

published in Blackfriars (Vol. XXXII, July-August 1951); 
reprinted in Dynamics of World History (1958), pp. 233-50. 

THE problem of the relations of Christianity to History has been 
very much complicated and, I think, obscured by the influence 
of nineteenth-century philosophy. Almost all the great idealist 
philosophers of that century, like Fichte and Schelling and Hegel, 
constructed elaborate philosophies of history which had a very 
considerable influence on the historians, especially in Germany, 
and on the theologians also. All these systems were inspired or 
coloured by Christian ideas and they were consequently eagerly 
accepted by Christian theologians for apologetic purposes. And 
thus there arose an alliance between idealist philosophy and Ger- 
man theology which became characteristic of the Liberal Prot- 
estant movement and dominated religious thought both on the 
Continent and in this country during the later nineteenth cen- 

Today the situation is entirely changed. Both philosophic 
idealism and liberal Protestantism have been widely discredited 
and have been replaced by logical positivism and by the dialectic 
theology of the Barthians. The result is that the idea of a Chris- 
tian philosophy of history has also suffered from the reaction 
against philosophic idealism. It is difficult to distinguish the 
authentic and original element in the Christian view of history 
from the philosophic accretions and interpretations of the last 
century and a half, so that you will find modern representatives 
[234] of orthodox Christianity like Mr. C. S. Lewis questioning the 
possibility of a Christian interpretation of history, and declaring 
that the supposed connection between Christianity and Histori- 
cism is largely an illusion. [1] 

If we approach the subject from a purely philosophical point 
of view there is a good deal to justify Mr. Lewis's scepticism. For 
the classical tradition of Christian philosophy as represented by 
Thomism has devoted comparatively little attention to the prob- 
lem of history, while the philosophers who set the highest value 
on history and insist most strongly on the close relation between 

Christianity and history, such as Collingwood and Croce and 
Hegel, are not themselves Christian and may perhaps have tended 
to interpret Christianity in terms of their own philosophy. 

Let us therefore postpone any philosophical discussion and 
consider the matter on the basis of the original theological data 
of historic Christianity without any attempt to justify or criticize 
them on philosophical grounds, There is no great difficulty in 
doing this, since the classical tradition of Christian philosophy as 
represented by Thomism has never devoted much attention to 
the problem of history. Its tradition has been Hellenic and 
Aristotelian, whereas the Christian interpretation of history is 
derived from a different source. It is Jewish rather than Greek, 
and finds its fullest expression in the primary documents of the 
Christian faith the writings of the Hebrew prophets and in the 
New Testament itself. 

Thus the Christian view of history is not a secondary element 
derived by philosophical reflection from the study of history. It 
lies at the very heart of Christianity and forms an integral part of 
the Christian faith. Hence there is no Christian "philosophy of 
history" in the strict sense of the word. There is, instead, a Chris- 
tian history and a Christian theology of history, and it is not too 
much to say that without them there would be no such thing as 
Christianity. For Christianity, together with the religion of Israel 
out of which it was born, is an historical religion in a sense to 

1 In his article on "Historicism" in The Month, October, 1950. 

[235] which none of the other world religions can lay claim—not 
even Islam, though this comes nearest to it in this respect. 

Hence it is very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to explain 
the Christian view of history to a non-Christian, since it is neces- 
sary to accept the Christian faith in order to understand the 
Christian view of history, and those who reject the idea of a divine 
revelation are necessarily obliged to reject the Christian view of 
history as well. And even those who are prepared to accept in 
theory the principle of divine revelation — of the manifestation of 
a religious truth which surpasses human reason—may still find it 

hard to face the enormous paradoxes of Christianity. 

That God should have chosen an obscure Palestinian tribe — 
not a particularly civilized or attractive tribe either — to be the 
vehicle of his universal purpose for humanity, is difficult to 
believe. But that this purpose should have been finally realized in 
the person of a Galilean peasant executed under Tiberius, and 
that this event was the turning point in the life of mankind and 
the key to the meaning of history — all this is so hard for the 
human mind to accept that even the Jews themselves were scan- 
dalized, while to the Greek philosophers and the secular his- 
torians it seemed sheer folly. 

Nevertheless, these are the foundations of the Christian view 
of history, and if we cannot accept them it is useless to elaborate 
idealistic theories and call them a Christian philosophy of history, 
as has often been done in the past. 

For the Christian view of history is not merely a belief in the 
direction of history by divine providence, it is a belief in the 
intervention by God in the life of mankind by direct action at 
certain definite points in time and place. The doctrine of the 
Incarnation which is the central doctrine of the Christian faith is 
also the centre of history, and thus it is natural and appropriate 
that our traditional Christian history is framed in a chronological 
system which takes the year of the Incarnation as its point of 
reference and reckons its annals backwards and forwards from 
this fixed centre. 

No doubt it may be said that the idea of divine incarnation is 
not peculiar to Christianity. But if we look at the typical examples 
[236] of these non-Christian theories of divine incarnation, such as the 
orthodox Hindu expression of it in the Bhagavad-gita, we shall 
see that it has no such significance for history as the Christian 
doctrine possesses. It is not only that the divine figure of Khrishna 
is mythical and unhistorical, it is that no divine incarnation is 
regarded as unique but as an example of a recurrent process which 
repeats itself again and again ad infinitum in the eternal recur- 
rence of the cosmic cycle. 

It was against such ideas as represented by the Gnostic theoso- 
phy that St. Irenaeus asserted the uniqueness of the Christian 
revelation and the necessary relation between the divine unity 
and the unity of history — "that there is one Father the creator 
of Man and one Son who fulfils the Father's will and one human 
race in which the mysteries of God are worked out so that the 
creature conformed and incorporated with his son is brought to 

For the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation is not simply a 
theophany — a revelation of God to Man; it is a new creation - 
the introduction of a new spiritual principle which gradually 
leavens and transforms human nature into something new. The 
history of the human race hinges on this unique divine event 
which gives spiritual unity to the whole historic process. First 
there is the history of the Old Dispensation which is the story of 
the providential preparation of mankind for the Incarnation 
when "the fulness of time," to use St. Paul's expression, had 
come. Secondly there is the New Dispensation which is the work- 
ing out of the Incarnation in the life of the Christian Church. 
And finally there is the realization of the divine purpose in the 
future: in the final establishment of the Kingdom of God when 
the harvest of this world is reaped. Thus the Christian conception 
of history is essentially unitary. It has a beginning, a centre, and 
an end. This beginning, this centre, and this end transcend his 
tory; they are not historical events in the ordinary sense of the 
word, but acts of divine creation to which the whole process of 
history is subordinate. For the Christian view of history is a vision 
of history sub specie aeternitatis, an interpretation of time in 
terms of eternity and of human events in the light of divine reve- 
[237] lation. And thus Christian history is inevitably apocalyptic, and 
the apocalypse is the Christian substitute for the secular philoso- 
phies of history. 

But this involves a revolutionary reversal and transposition of 
historical values and judgments. For the real meaning of history 
is not the apparent meaning that historians have studied and 
philosophers have attempted to explain. The world-transforming 
events which changed the whole course of human history have 
occurred as it were under the surface of history unnoticed by the 

historians and the philosophers. This is the great paradox of the 
gospel, as St. Paul asserts with such tremendous force. The great 
mystery of the divine purpose which has been hidden throughout 
the ages has now been manifested in the sight of heaven and earth 
by the apostolic ministry. Yet the world has not been able to 
accept it, because it has been announced by unknown insignifi- 
cant men in a form which was inacceptable and incomprehensible 
to the higher culture of the age, alike Jewish and Hellenistic. The 
Greeks demand philosophical theories, the Jews demand his- 
torical proof. But the answer of Christianity is Christ crucified — 
verbum crucis — the story of the Cross: a scandal to the Jews and 
an absurdity to the Greeks. It is only when this tremendous para- 
dox with its reversal of all hitherto accepted standards of judg- 
ment has been accepted that the meaning of human life and 
human history can be understood. For St. Paul does not of course 
mean to deny the value of understanding or to affirm that history 
is without a meaning. What he asserts is the mysterious and 
transcendent character of the true knowledge "the hidden wis- 
dom which God ordained before the world to our glory which 
none of the rulers of this world know. "[2] And in the same way he 
fully accepted the Jewish doctrine of a sacred history which 
would justify the ways of God to man. What he denied was an 
external justification by the manifest triumph of the Jewish 
national hope. The ways of God were deeper and more mysterious 
than that, so that the fulfilment of prophecy towards which the 
whole history of Israel had tended had been concealed from 

2 Col. 2; cf . Eph. 3. 

[238] Israel by the scandal of the Cross. Nevertheless the Christian 
interpretation of history as we see it in the New Testament and 
the writings of the Fathers follows the pattern which had already 
been laid down in the Old Testament and in Jewish tradition. 

There is, in the first place, a sacred history in the strict sense, 
that is to say, the story of God's dealings with his people and the 
fulfilment of his eternal purpose in and through them. And, in 
the second place, there is the interpretation of external history in 
the light of this central purpose. This took the form of a theory 
of successive world ages and successive world empires, each of 

which had a part to play in the divine drama. The theory of the 
world ages, which became incorporated in the Jewish apocalyptic 
tradition and was ultimately taken over by Christian apocalyptic, 
was not however Jewish in origin. It was widely diffused through- 
out the ancient world m Hellenistic times and probably goes back 
in origin to the tradition of Babylonian cosmology and astral 
theology. The theory of the world empires, on the other hand, 
is distinctively biblical in spirit and belongs to the central message 
of Hebrew prophecy. For the Divine Judgment which it was the 
mission of the prophets to declare was not confined to the chosen 
people. The rulers of the Gentiles were also the instruments of 
divine judgment, even though they did not understand the 
purposes that they served. Each of the world empires in turn had 
its divinely appointed task to perform, and when the task was 
finished their power carne to an end and they gave place to their 

Thus the meaning of history was not to be found in the history 
of the world empires themselves. They were not ends but means, 
and the inner significance of history was to be found in the 
apparently insignificant development of the people of God. Now 
this prophetic view of history was taken over by the Christian 
Church and applied on a wider and universal scale. The divine 
event which had changed the course of history had also broken 
down the barrier between Jews and the Gentiles, and the two 
separated parts of humanity had been made one in Christ, the 
corner-stone of the new world edifice. The Christian attitude to 
secular history was indeed the same as that of the prophets; and 
[239] the Roman Empire was regarded as the successor of the old 
world empires, like Babylon and Persia. But now it was seen that the 
Gentile world as well as the chosen people were being provi- 
dentially guided towards a common spiritual end. And this end 
was no longer conceived as the restoration of Israel and the 
gathering of all the exiles from among the Gentiles. It was the 
gathering together of all the spiritually living elements through- 
out mankind into a new spiritual society. The Roman prophet 
Hennas in the second century describes the process in the vision 
of the white tower that was being built among the waters, by 
tens of thousands of men who were bringing stones dragged from 
the deep sea or collected from the twelve mountains which 

symbolize the different nations of the world. Some of these stones 
were rejected and some were chosen to be used for the building. 
And when he asks "concerning the times and whether the end is 
yet" he is answered: "Do you not see that the tower is still in 
process of building? When the building has been finished, the 
end comes." 

This vision shows how Christianity transfers the meaning of 
history from the outer world of historic events to the inner 
world of spiritual change, and how the latter was conceived as the 
dynamic element in history and as a real world-transforming 
power. But it also shows how the primitive Christian sense of an 
imminent end led to a foreshortening of the time scale and dis- 
tracted men's attention from the problem of the future destinies 
of human civilization. It was not until the time of the conversion 
of the Empire and the peace of the Church that Christians were 
able to make a distinction between the end of the age and the end 
of the world, and to envisage the prospect of a Christian age and 
civilization which was no millennial kingdom but a field of con- 
tinual effort and conflict 

This view of history found its classical expression in St. Augus- 
the's work on The City of God which interprets the course of 
universal history as an unceasing conflict between two dynamic 
principles embodied in two societies and social orders the City 
of Man and the City of God, Babylon and Jerusalem, which run 
their course side by side, intermingling with one another and 
[240] sharing the same temporal goods and the same temporal evils, 
but separated from one another by an infinite spiritual gulf. Thus St. 
Augustine sees history as the meeting point of time and eternity. 
History is a unity because the same divine power which shows it- 
self in the order of nature from the stars down to the feathers of 
the bird and the leaves of the tree also governs the rise and fall of 
kingdoms and empires. But this divine order is continually being 
deflected by the downward gravitation of human nature to its 
own selfish ends a force which attempts to build its own world 
in those political structures that are the organized expression of 
human ambition and lust for power. This does not, however, 
mean that St. Augustine identifies the state as such with the 
civitas terrena and condemns it as essentially evil. On the con- 

trary, he shows that its true end the maintaining of temporal 
peace is a good which is in agreement with the higher good of 
the City of God, so that the state in its true nature is not so much 
the expression of self-will and the lust for power as a necessary 
barrier which defends human society from being destroyed by 
these forces of destruction. It is only when war and not peace is 
made the end of the state that it becomes identified with the civi- 
tas terrena in the bad sense of the word. But we see only too well 
that the predatory state that lives by war and conquest is an his- 
torical reality, and St. Augustine's judgment on secular history is 
a predominantly pessimistic one which sees the kingdoms of this 
world as founded in injustice and extending themselves by war 
and oppression. The ideal of temporal peace which is inherent in 
the idea of the state is never strong enough to overcome the dy- 
namic force of human self-will, and therefore the whole course of 
history apart from divine grace is the record of successive attempts 
to build towers of Babel which are frustrated by the inherent self- 
ishness and greed of human nature. 

The exception, however, is all-important. For the blind forces 
of instinct and human passion are not the only powers that rule 
the world. God has not abandoned his creation. He communi- 
cates to man, by the grace of Christ and the action of the Spirit, 
the spiritual power of divine love which alone is capable of bans- 
forming human nature. As the natural force of self-love draws 
[241] down the world to multiplicity and disorder and death, the super- 
natural power of the love of God draws it back to unity and order 
and life. And it is here that the true unity and significance of his- 
tory is to be found. For love, in St. Augustine's theory, is the prin- 
ciple of society, and as the centrifugal and destructive power of 
self-love creates the divided society of the civitas terrena, so the 
unitive and creative power of divine love creates the City of God, 
the society that unites all men of good will in an eternal fellow- 
ship which is progressively realized in the course of the ages. 

Thus St. Augustine, more perhaps than any other Christian 
thinker, emphasizes the social character of the Christian doctrine 
of salvation. For "whence," he writes, "should the City of God 
originally begin or progressively develop or ultimately attain its 
end unless the life of the saints were a social one?" [3] But at the 

same time he makes the individual soul and not the state or the 
civilization the real centre of the historic process. Wherever the 
power of divine love moves the human will there the City of God 
is being built. Even the Church which is the visible sacramental 
organ of the City of God is not identical with it, since, as he 
writes, in God's foreknowledge there are many who seem to be 
outside who are within and many who seem to be within who are 
outside. [4] So there are those outside the communion of the 
Church "whom the Father, who sees in secret, crowns in secret."[5] 
For the two Cities interpenetrate one another in such a way and 
to such a degree that "the earthly kingdom exacts service from 
the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of heaven exacts service 
from the earthly city."[6] 

It is impossible to exaggerate the influence of St. Augustine's 
thought on the development of the Christian view of history and 
on the whole tradition of Western historiography, which follows 
quite a different course from that of Eastern and Byzantine his- 
toriography. It is true that the modern reader who expects to find 

3 De Civ. Dei, xix, V. 
4De Bapt.,V, 38. 

5 De Vera Religione, vi, II. 

6 In Psalmos, li, 4. 

[242] in St. Augustine a philosophy of history in the modern sense, 
and who naturally turns to the historical portions of his great work, 
especially Books XV to XVIII, is apt to be grievously disap- 
pointed, like the late Professor Hearnshaw who wrote that the De 
Civitate Dei contains neither philosophy nor history but merely 
theology and fiction. But though St. Augustine was never a Chris- 
tian historian such as Eusebius, his work had a far more revolu- 
tionary effect on Western thought. In the first place, he impressed 
upon Christian historians his conception of history as a dynamic 
process in which the divine purpose is realized. Secondly, he 
made men realize the way in which the individual personality is 
the source and centre of this dynamic process. And finally, he 
made the Western Church conscious of its historical mission and 
its social and political responsibilities so that it became during the 
following centuries the active principle of Western culture. 

The results of St. Augustine's work find full expression three 
centuries later in the Anglo-Saxon Church. Unlike St. Augustine, 
St. Bede was a true historian, but his history is built on the foun- 
dations that St. Augustine had laid, and thus we get the first his- 
tory of a Christian people in the full sense of the word a history 
which is not primarily concerned with the rise and fall of king- 
doms though these are not omitted; but with the rise of Christ's 
kingdom in England, the gesta Dei per Anglos. Of course Bede's 
great work can hardly be regarded as typical of mediaeval histori- 
ography. It was an exceptional, almost an unique, achievement. 
But at any rate his historical approach is typical, and, together 
with his other chronological works, it provided the pattern which 
was followed by the later historians of the Christian Middle Ages. 
It consists in the first place of a world chronicle of the Eusebian 
type which provided the chronological background on which the 
historian worked. Secondly there were the histories of particular 
peoples and Churches of which St. Bede's Ecclesiastical History 
is the classical example, and which is represented in later times 
by works like Adam of Bremen's History of the Church of Ham- 
burg or Ordericus Vitalises' Ecclesiastical History. And thirdly 
there are the biographies of saints and bishops and abbots, like 
[243] Bede's life of St. Cuthbert and the lives of the abbots of 

In this way the recording of contemporary events in the typical 
mediaeval chronicle is linked up on the one hand with the tradi- 
tion of world history and on the other with the lives of the great 
men who were the leaders and heroes of Christian society. But 
the saint is not merely an historical figure; he has become a citi- 
zen of the eternal city, a celestial patron and protector of man's 
earthly life. So that in the lives of the saints we see history tran- 
scending itself and becoming part of the eternal world of faith. 

Thus in mediaeval thought, time and eternity are far more 
closely bound up with one another than they were in classical an- 
tiquity or to the modern mind. The world of history was only a 
fraction of the real world and it was surrounded on every side by 
the eternal world like an island in the ocean. This mediaeval 
vision of a hierarchical universe in which the world of man occu- 

pies a small but central place finds classical expression in Dante's 
Divina Commedia. For this shows better than any purely histori- 
cal or theological work how the world of history was conceived as 
passing into eternity and bearing eternal fruit. 

And if on the one hand this seems to reduce the importance of 
history and of the present life, on the other hand it enhances their 
value by giving them an eternal significance. In fact there are few 
great poets who have been more concerned with history and even 
with politics than Dante was. What is happening in Florence and 
in Italy is a matter of profound concern, not only to the souls in 
Purgatory, but even to the damned in Hell and to the saints in 
Paradise, and the divine pageant in the Earthly Paradise which 
is the centre of the whole process is an apocalyptic vision of the 
judgment and the reformation of the Church and the Empire in 
the fourteenth century. 

Dante's great poem seems to sum up the whole achievement of 
the Catholic Middle Ages and to represent a perfect literary coun- 
terpart to the philosophical synthesis of St. Thomas. But if we 
turn to his prose works the Convivio and the De Monorchia 
we see that his views on culture, and consequently on history, 
differ widely from those of St. Thomas and even more from those 
[244] of St. Augustine. Here for the first time in Christian thought we 
find the earthly and temporal city regarded as an autonomous 
order with its own supreme end, which is not the service of the 
Church but the realization of all the natural potentialities of hu- 
man culture. The goal of civilization — finis universalis civitatis 
humani generis — can only be reached by a universal society and 
this requires the political unification of humanity in a single 
world state. Now it is clear that Dante's ideal of the universal 
state is derived from the mediaeval conception of Christendom 
as a universal society and from the tradition of the Holy Roman 
Empire as formulated by Ghibelline lawyers and theorists. As 
Professor Gilson writes, "if the genus humanum of Dante is really 
the first known expression of the modern idea of Humanity, we 
may say that the conception of Humanity first presented itself to 
the European consciousness merely as a secularized imitation of 
the religious notion of a Church."[7] 

But Dante's sources were not exclusively Christian. He was in- 
fluenced most powerfully by the political and ethical ideals of 
Greek humanism, represented above all by Aristotle's Ethics and 
no less by the romantic idealization of the classical past and his 
devotion to ancient Rome. For Dante's view of the Empire is en- 
tirely opposed to that of St. Augustine. He regards it not as the 
work of human pride and ambition but as a holy city specially 
created and ordained by God as the instrument of his divine pur- 
pose for the human race. He even goes so far as to maintain in the 
Convivio that the citizens and statesmen of Rome were them- 
selves holy, since they could not have achieved their purpose 
without a special infusion of divine grace. 

In all this Dante looks forward to the Renaissance rather than 
back to the Middle Ages. But he carries with him so much of the 
Christian tradition that even his secularism and his humanism 
have a distinctively Christian character which make them utterly 
different from those of classical antiquity. And this may also be 
said of most of the writers and thinkers of the following century, 
for, as Karl Burdach has shown with so much learning, the whole 

7 E. Gilson, Dante the Philosopher, p. 179, 

[245] atmosphere of later mediaeval and early Renaissance culture 
was infused by a Christian idealism which had its roots in the thir- 
teenth century and especially in the Franciscan movement. Thus 
the fourteenth century which saw the beginnings of the Italian 
Renaissance and the development of Western humanism was 
also the great century of Western mysticism; and this intensifica- 
tion of the interior life with its emphasis on spiritual experience 
was not altogether unrelated to the growing self-consciousness of 
Western culture which found expression in the humanist move- 
ment. Even in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the humanist 
culture was not entirely divorced from this mystical tradition; 
both elements co-exist in the philosophy of Nicholas of Cusa, in 
the culture of the Platonic Academy at Florence and in the art of 
Botticelli and finally in that of Michelangelo. But in his case we 
feel that this synthesis was only maintained by an heroic effort, 
and lesser men were forced to acquiesce in a division of life be- 
tween two spiritual ideals that became increasingly divergent. 

This idealization of classical antiquity which is already present 
in the thought of Dante developed still further with Petrarch and 
his contemporaries until it became the characteristic feature of 
Renaissance culture. It affected every aspect of Western thought, 
literary, scientific and philosophic. Above all, it changed the 
Western view of history and inaugurated a new type of historiog- 
raphy. The religious approach to history as the story of God's 
dealings with mankind and the fulfilment of the divine plan in 
the life of the Church was abandoned or left to the ecclesiastical 
historians, and there arose a new secular history modelled on 
Livy and Tacitus and a new type of historical biography influ- 
enced by Plutarch. 

Thus the unity of the mediaeval conception of history was lost 
and in its place there gradually developed a new pattern of history 
which eventually took the form of a threefold division between 
the ancient, mediaeval and modern periods, a pattern which in 
spite of its arbitrary and unscientific character has dominated the 
teaching of history down to modern times and still affects our at- 
titude to the past. 

This new approach to history was one of the main factors in 
[246] the secularization of European culture, since the idealization 
of the ancient state and especially of republican Rome influenced 
men's attitude to the contemporary state. The Italian city state 
and the kingdoms of the West of Europe were no longer regarded 
as organic members of the Christian community, but as ends in 
themselves which acknowledged no higher sanction than the will 
to power. During the Middle Ages the state as an autonomous 
self-sufficient power structure did not exist even its name was un- 
known. But from the fifteenth century onwards the history of 
Europe has been increasingly the history of the development of a 
limited number of sovereign states as independent power centres 
and of the ceaseless rivalry and conflict between them. The true 
nature of this development was disguised by the religious prestige 
which still surrounded the person of the ruler and which was ac- 
tually increased during the age of the Reformation by the union 
of the Church with the state and its subordination to the royal 

Thus there is an inherent contradiction in the social develop- 
ment of modern culture. Inasmuch as the state was the creation 
and embodiment of the will to power, it was a Leviathan a sub- 
moral monster which lived by the law of the jungle. But at the 
same time it was the bearer of the cultural values which had been 
created by the Christian past, so that to its subjects it still seemed 
a Christian state and the vice-gerent of God on earth. 

And the same contradiction appears in the European view of 
history. The realists like Machiavelli and Hobbes attempted to in- 
terpret history in non-moral terms as a straightforward expression 
of the will to power which could be studied in a scientific (quasi- 
biological) spirit. But by so doing they emptied the historical 
process of the moral values that still retained their subjective val- 
idity so that they outraged both the conscience and the conven- 
tions of their contemporaries. The idealists, on the other hand, 
ignored or minimized the sub-moral character of the state and 
idealized it as the instrument of divine providence or of that im- 
personal force which was gradually leading mankind onwards 
towards perfection. 

It is easy to see how this belief in progress found acceptance 
[247] during the period of triumphant national and cultural expansion 
when Western Europe was acquiring a kind of world hegemony. 
But it is no less clear that it was not a purely rational construction, 
but that it was essentially nothing else but a secularized version of 
the traditional Christian view. It inherited from Christianity its 
belief in the unity of history and its faith in a spiritual or moral 
purpose which gives meaning to the whole historical process. At 
the same time its transposition of these conceptions to a purely 
rational and secular theory of culture involved their drastic sim- 
plification. To the Christian the meaning of history was a mystery 
which was only revealed in the light of faith. But the apostles of 
the religion of progress denied the need for divine revelation and 
believed that man had only to follow the light of reason to dis- 
cover the meaning of history in the law of progress which governs 
the life of civilization. But it was difficult even in the eighteenth 
century to make this facile optimism square with the facts of his- 
tory. It was necessary to explain that hitherto the light of reason 
had been concealed by the dark forces of superstition and ignor- 

ance as embodied in organized religion. But in that case the en- 
lightenment was nothing less than a new revelation, and in order 
that it might triumph it was necessary that the new believers 
should organize themselves in a new church whether it called it- 
self a school of philosophers or a secret society of illuminati or 
freemasons or a political party. This was, in fact, what actually 
happened, and the new rationalist churches have proved no less 
intolerant and dogmatic than the religious sects of the past. The 
revelation of Rousseau was followed by a series of successive reve- 
lations -idealist, positivist and socialistic, with their prophets and 
their churches. Of these today only the Marxist revelation sur- 
vives, thanks mainly to the superior efficiency of its ecclesiastical 
organization and apostolate. None of these secular religions has 
been more insistent on its purely scientific and non-religious char- 
acter than Marxism. Yet none of them owes more to the Mes- 
sianic elements in the Christian and Jewish historical traditions. 
Its doctrine is in fact essentially apocalyptic a denunciation of 
judgment against the existing social order and a message of salva- 
tion to the poor and the oppressed who will at last receive their 
[248] reward after the social revolution in the classless society, which 
is the Marxist equivalent of the millennial kingdom of righteous- 

No doubt the Communist will regard this as a caricature of the 
Marxist theory, since the social revolution and the coming of the 
classless society is the result of an inevitable economic and socio- 
logical process and its goal is not a spiritual but a material one. 
Nevertheless the cruder forms of Jewish and Christian millen- 
niarism were not without a materialistic element since they en- 
visaged an earthly kingdom in which the saints would enjoy tem- 
poral prosperity, while it is impossible to ignore the existence of a 
strong apocalyptic and Utopian element in the Communist atti- 
tude towards the social revolution and the establishment of a 
perfect society which will abolish class conflict and social injus- 

There is in fact a dualism between the Marxist myth, which is 
ethical and apocalyptic, and the Marxist interpretation of history, 
which is materialist, determinist and ethically relativistic. But it 
is from the first of these two elements that Communism has de- 

rived and still derives its popular appeal and its quasi-religious 
character which render it such a serious rival to Christianity. Yet 
it is difficult to reconcile the absolutism of the Marxist myth with 
the relativism of the Marxist interpretation of history. The Marx- 
ist believer stakes everything on the immediate realization of the 
social revolution and the proximate advent of the classless society. 
But when these have been realized, the class war which is the 
dialectical principle of historical change will have been sup- 
pressed and history itself comes to an end. In the same way there 
will no longer be any room for the moral indignation and the revo- 
lutionary idealism which have inspired Communism with a kind 
of religious enthusiasm. Nothing is left but an absolute and abject 
attitude of social conf ormism when the revolutionary protest of 
the minority becomes transformed into the irresistible tyranny of 
mass opinion which will not tolerate the smallest deviation from 
ideological orthodoxy. By the dialectic of history the movement 
of social revolution passes over into its totalitarian opposite, and 
the law of the negation finds its consummation. 

[249] Thus, in comparison with the Christian view of history, the 
Marxist view is essentially a short-term one, the significance of 
which is concentrated on the economic changes which are -affect- 
ing modern Western society. This accounts for its immediate ef- 
fectiveness in the field of political propaganda, but at the same 
time it detracts from its value on the philosophical level as a 
theory of universal history. The Marxist doctrine first appeared 
about a century ago, and could not have arisen at any earlier time. 
Its field of prediction is limited to the immediate future, for Marx 
himself seems to have expected the downfall of capitalism to take 
place in his own lifetime, and the leaders of the Russian revolu- 
tion took a similar view. In any case the fulfilment of the whole 
Marxist programme is a matter of years, not of centuries, and 
Marxism seems to throw no light on the historical developments 
which will follow the establishment of the classless society. 

The Christian view, on the other hand, is co-extensive with 
time. It covers the whole life of humanity on this planet and it 
ends only with the end of this world and of man's temporal exist- 
ence. It is essentially a theory of the interpenetration of time and 
eternity: so that the essential meaning of history is to be found in 

the growth of the seed of eternity in the womb of time. For man 
is not merely a creature of the economic process a producer and 
a consumer. He is an animal that is conscious of his mortality and 
consequently aware of eternity. In the same way the end of his- 
tory is not the development of a new form of economic society, 
but is the creation of a new humanity, or rather a higher human- 
ity, which goes as far beyond man as man himself goes beyond 
the animals. Now Christians not only believe in the existence of 
a divine plan in history, they believe in the existence of a human 
society which is in some measure aware of this plan and capable 
of co-operating with it. Thousands of years ago the Hebrew 
prophet warned his people not to learn the ways of the nations 
who were dismayed at the signs of the times. For the nations were 
the servants of their own creatures the false gods who were the 
work of delusion and who must perish in the time of visitation. 
"But the portion of Jacob is not like these, for he that formed all 
things has made Israel to be the people of his inheritance" The 
[250] same thing is true today of the political myths and ideologies 
which modern man creates in order to explain the signs of the 
time. These are our modern idols which are no less bloodthirsty 
than the gods of the heathen and which demand an even greater 
tribute of human sacrifice. But the Church remains the guardian 
of the secret of history and the organ of the work of human re- 
demption which goes on ceaselessly through the rise and fall of 
kingdoms and the revolutions of social systems. It is true that the 
Church has no immediate solution to offer in competition with 
those of the secular ideologies. On the other hand, the Christian 
solution is the only one which gives full weight to the unknown 
and unpredictable element in history; whereas the secular ideolo- 
gies which attempt to eliminate this element, and which almost 
invariably take an optimistic view of the immediate future are in- 
evitably disconcerted and disillusioned by the emergence of this 
unknown factor at the point at which they thought that it had 
been finally banished. 


"History and the Christian Revelation," 

adapted from the first half of Chapter V of Religion and the 
Modern State (1935) and combined with portions of Chapter 
VII from the same volume; reprinted in Dynamics of World History 
(1958), pp. 251-261. 

THE Christian interpretation of history is inseparable from the 
Christian faith. It is not a philosophic theory which has been 
elaborated by the intellectual effort of Christian scholars. It is an 
integral part of the Christian revelation; indeed that revelation is 
essentially an historic one, so that the most metaphysical of its 
dogmas are based upon historic facts and form part of that great 
dispensation of grace in which the whole temporal process of the 
life of humanity finds its end and meaning. In this respect Ca- 
tholicism and Communism agree, in spite of the absolute contra- 
diction that characterizes their several interpretations of history. 
For Communism is also an historic faith and the materialist in- 
terpretation of history is no less fundamental to Communism 
than is the spiritual interpretation of history to Christianity. The 
economic doctrines of Marxism are based on history to an almost 
greater extent than the theological doctrines of Catholicism; and 
a Socialism which professes Communism and Materialism with- 
out the historic doctrine of Marx has no more right to be called 
Marxism than a religion which accepts the ethical and theological 
teachings of Christianity while rejecting the historic elements of 
the faith has the right to the name of Catholicism. 

In spite of this parallelism, however, no real comparison is pos- 
sible between a theory deliberately constructed by an individual 
thinker as part of his economic system and a doctrine which is 
older than history itself and which has developed organically with 
the greatest religious tradition of the world. 

[252] For if we wish to find the roots of the Catholic interpretation 
of history, we must go back behind the Fathers, behind the New 
Testament, behind even the Hebrew prophets to the very foun- 
dation of the religion of Israel. It has its root in the the solemn 
berith or covenant by which at a particular point in time and 
space Israel became a theophoric nation, the People of Jahweh. 
To the rationalistic critic this strange ceremony which took place 
in the Arabian desert some 3,400 years ago cannot seem anything 

more than a somewhat abnormal instance of the primitive con- 
ception of the solidarity between the tribal god and his worship- 
pers. To the Christian, however, it is nothing less than the first 
act in that marriage of God with humanity which was to be con- 
summated in the Incarnation and to bear fruit in the creation of 
a new humanity. Even the critics, however, admit the unique 
character of the relations between Israel and its God. In the case 
of the other Semitic peoples this relation is a natural one and con- 
sists in the kinship of the people with its god. Only in the case of 
Israel is the relation an adoptive one that had its origin in a par- 
ticular series of historical events. 

And as the covenant of Jahweh had an historic origin, it also 
found an historic fulfilment. Only in so far as Israel fulfilled its 
theophoric mission could it enjoy its theophoric privileges. The 
misfortunes of Israel were the judgments of Jahweh and every 
historic crisis was a call for Israel to return to the laws of Jahweh 
and thus to renew the validity of the covenant. And in the writ- 
ings of the prophets we see how the successive crises of Jewish 
history were the occasion of fresh revelations of the divine voca- 
tion of Israel and of the divine purpose in history. The vision of 
the prophets was no longer limited to the Kingdoms of Judah and 
Israel; it extended to the surrounding nations and the world em- 
pires that were eating them up. Even the kingdoms that were the 
enemies of the people of Jahweh were the instruments of Jahweh 
and had their part to play in working out his purpose. Assyria was 
the rod of his anger, which would be broken and cast aside when 
its work was done. And thus the judgment of Jahweh was no 
longer confined to the offences of Israel, it was a world judgment 
against the injustice but above all against the pride of man. 

[253]For the day of the Lord of Hosts shall be upon every one that is 
proud and lofty and upon every one that is lifted up and he shall 
be brought low: and upon all the cedars of Lebanon and upon all 
the oaks of Bashan; and upon all the great mountains and upon 
all the high hills, and upon every high tower and upon every 
fenced wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish and upon all that 
is fair to behold. And the loftiness of man shall be brought down 
and the haughtiness of man shall be humbled: and the Lord 
alone shall be exalted in that day.[l] 

But through this denunciation of divine wrath, there is an in- 
creasing revelation of the hope of Israel. The new Jerusalem will 
not be a kingdom like the kingdoms of the Gentiles, but an eter- 
nal and universal one, founded on a new spiritual covenant. Israel 
was destined to be a theophoric people in a fuller sense than when 
it received the law of Jahweh at Sinai. It was to be the vehicle of 
divine revelation to the world. 

This Jewish interpretation of history finds its most systematic 
expression in the book of Daniel which formed a model for the 
later apocalyptic literature. It no longer takes the form of isolated 
prophecies and denunciations of particular judgments, but of a 
synthetic view of world history as seen in the series of world em- 
pires which occupy "the latter times." Each empire has its allotted 
time and when "the sentence of the watchers" has gone forth its 
kingdom is numbered and finished. And at the same time the 
transcendent character of the Messianic hope is brought out 
more clearly than before. The Kingdom of God does not belong 
to the series of the world empires, it is something that comes in 
from outside and replaces them. It is the stone cut out of the 
mountain without hands that crushes the fourfold image of 
world empire to powder and grows till it fills the whole world. It 
is the universal kingdom of the Son of Man which will destroy 
the Kingdoms of the four beasts and will endure for ever. 

This is the tradition that was inherited by the Christian 
Church. Indeed it may be said that it was precisely this prophetic 
and apocalyptic element in Judaism to which Christianity ap- 
pealed. To the modern Protestant the essence of the Gospel is to 
[254] be found in its moral teaching: its doctrine of the brotherhood of 
man and the fatherhood of God, But to the primitive Christian 
it was in the literal sense the Good News of the Kingdom. It was 
the announcement of a cosmic revolution, the beginning of a 
new world order: the dispensation of the fullness of the times to 
re-establish all things in Christ. 

In order to understand the resultant attitude to history we 
must study the Apocalypse, which is at once the culmination of 
the Jewish apocalyptic tradition and the first Christian interpre- 

tation of history. It is marked by an historical dualism of the most 
uncompromising kind, which even accentuates the contrast be- 
tween the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men which we 
find already in the prophets and in the book of Daniel. The city 
of God is not built up on earth by the preaching of the Gospel 
and the labour of the saints: it descends from God out of heaven 
like a bride adorned for her husband. But before it comes the 
mystery of iniquity must fulfil itself on earth and the harvest of 
human power and pride must be reaped. This is the significance 
of the judgment of Babylon, which appears in the Apocalypse not 
as a conquering military power as in the earlier prophets, but as 
the embodiment of material civilization and luxury, the great har- 
lot, whose charms bewitch all the nations of the earth; the world 
market whose trade enriches the merchants and the shipowners. 
At first sight there may seem little in common between all this 
lurid apocalyptic imagery and the teaching of the Gospels. Never- 
theless the same fundamental conceptions underlie both of them. 
The dualism of the Kingdom and the World in the Gospels and 
the Epistles is no less uncompromising than that of the two apoc- 
alyptic cities. This is especially so in the case of the fourth Gos- 
pel with its insistence on the enmity of the World as the neces- 
sary condition for the children of the Kingdom. "I pray not for 
the world, but for those that thou hast given me." And again — 
"The prince of this world cometh and in me he has not any- 

So too the supernatural and catastrophic character of the com- 
[255] ing of the Kingdom is insisted on in the Synoptic Gospels no less 
than in the Apocalypse. There also, in what may be called the 
apocalypse of Jesus, we find the same prophecies of coming woe 
and the same conception of a world crisis which is due to the 
ripening of the harvest of evil rather than the progress of the 
forces of good. "And as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be 
also in the days of the Son of Man. They ate and drank, they 
married and gave in marriage until the day when Noah entered 
into the ark and the flood came and destroyed them all. "[3] 

It does not follow, however, that the faithful are powerless to 
affect the course of events. It is their resistance that breaks the 
power of the world. The prayers of the saints and the blood of the 
martyrs, so to speak, force the hand of God and hasten the com- 

ing of the Kingdom. If the unjust judge listens to the importunity 
of the widow, will not God much more avenge his elect who cry 
to him night and day? 

These are the foundations of the Christian view of history as 
it has been incorporated in the Catholic tradition. It is true that 
it seems at first sight a doctrine of the end of history which leaves 
no room for future development. As Newman writes, history 
seemed to have changed its direction with the coming of Christ. 
It no longer runs straight forward, but is, as it were, continually 
verging on eternity. "The Jews had a grant of this world: they had 
entered the vineyard in the morning; they had time before them; 
they might reckon on the future. . . . But it is otherwise with 
us. Earth and sky are ever failing; Christ is ever coming; Chris- 
tians are ever lifting up their heads and looking out, and therefore 
it is the evening." Nevertheless "the evening is long and the day 
was short." "This last age though ever-failing has lasted longer 
than the ages before it, and Christians have more time for a 
greater work than if they had been hired in the morning."[4] 

This was the great problem before the ancient church, and on 
its solution the Catholic interpretation of history depends. The 
millenniarists solved it in one way by a literalist interpretation of 
[256] the Apocalyptic traditions, the Gnostics and the Origenists 
solved it in another way by eliminating history altogether in the 
interests of metaphysics and substituting theosophy for apocalyp- 

But the Catholic solution which found its classical expression 
in St. Augustine retained the Hebrew sense of the significance 
and uniqueness of history, while rejecting the literalism and ma- 
terialism of the extreme millenniarists and adopting the spiritual 
interpretation of the Greek theologians. The conflict between the 
Church and the Roman Empire was not the last act in the world 
drama; it was but one chapter of a long history in which the oppo- 
sition and tension between the two social principles represented 
by the Church and the World would repeat themselves succes- 
sively in new forms. 

History was no longer a mere unintelligible chaos of discon- 

nected events. It had found in the Incarnation a centre which 
gave it significance and order. Viewed from this centre the history 
of humanity became an organic unity. Eternity had entered into 
time and henceforward the singular and the temporal had ac- 
quired an eternal significance. The closed circle of time had been 
broken and a ladder had been let down from heaven to earth by 
which mankind can escape from the "sorrowful wheel" which 
had cast its shadow over Greek and Indian thought, and go for- 
ward in newness of life to a new world. 

Thus the Catholic interpretation of history differs from any 
other in its combination of universalism with a sense of the 
uniqueness and irreversibility of the historic process. Its rejection 
of millenniarism frees it from the short views and the narrow 
fanaticisms of the sectarian tradition, as well as from the provin- 
cialism and partiality of the national historian who is a part of the 
political unit of which he writes. But the Catholic historian is the 
heir of a universal tradition. As Orosius writes, "Everywhere is my 
country, everywhere my law and my religion. . . . The breadth 
of the east, the fullness of the north, the extent of the south and 
the islands of the west are the wide and secure home of my citi- 
zenship, for it is as a Roman and a Christian that I address Chris- 
tians and Romans." 

[257] And on the other hand the Catholic interpretation of history 
no less avoids the false universalism of the rationalist historians 
who insist on the fundamental identity of human nature in all 
circumstances; and who believe, like Hume, that the object of 
history is "only to discover the constant and universal principles 
of human nature by showing men in all variety of circumstances 
and situations." "The same motives always produce the same ac- 
tions; the same events always follow from the same causes. "[5] 

But the Catholic interpretation of history preserves the pro- 
phetic and apocalyptic sense of mystery and divine judgment. Be- 
hind the rational sequence of political and economic cause and 
effect, hidden spiritual forces are at work which confer on events 
a wholly new significance. The real meaning of history is some- 
thing entirely different from that which the human actors in the 
historical drama themselves believe or intend. For example, to a 

contemporary "scientific" historian the rise of the world empires 
in the Near East from the 8th to the 6th centuries B.C. would have 
seemed the only historical reality. He could not have even 
imagined that 2,000 years later all this drama of world history 
would only be remembered in so far as it affected the spiritual 
fortunes of one of the smallest and least materially civilized of 
the subject peoples. And in the same way what contemporary ob- 
server could have imagined that the execution of an obscure Jew- 
ish religious leader in the first century of the Roman Empire 
would affect the lives and thoughts of millions who never heard 
the names of the great statesmen and generals of the age? 

It is this mysterious and unpredictable aspect of history which 
is the great stumbling block to the rationalist. He is always look- 
ing for neat systems of laws and causal sequences from which his- 
tory can be automatically deduced. But history is impatient of 
all such artificial constructions. It is at once aristocratic and revo- 
lutionary. It allows the whole world situation to be suddenly 
transformed by the action of a single individual like Mohammed 
or Alexander. No doubt the situation in each case was ripe for 
change, but it would not have changed in that particular way with- 
[258] out the intervention of that particular individual. If Alexander 
had turned his eyes to the West instead of to Persia, the course of 
world history would have been altered. There would have been 
no Roman Empire and consequently either no Europe or else a 
different Europe and a different modern civilization. 

Now the Catholic interpretation, on the other hand, finds no 
difficulty in accepting the arbitrary and unpredictable character 
of historical change, since it sees everywhere the signs of a divine 
purpose and election. The will of God chooses a barbarous Sem- 
itic tribe and makes of it the vehicle of his purposes towards hu- 
manity. Nor is the divine choice determined by human merit or 
by the internal logic of events. "Many widows were in Israel in 
the days of Elias but unto none of them was Elias sent save unto 
Sarepta of Sidon to a woman that was a widow. And many lepers 
were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet and none of 
them was cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian." The house of the 
world seems closed and guarded; its masters have no rivals left to 
fear. But suddenly the wind of the spirit blows and everything is 

changed. No age has ever been able to foresee the age to come. 
The Augustan age could not have foretold the triumph of Chris- 
tianity, nor the Byzantine age the coming of Islam. Even in our 
own generation, the best political observer of twenty years ago 
never guessed the possibility of the destruction of Parliamentar- 
ism in Central Europe by the advent of Fascism. But while all 
this is a scandal and reproach to historical rationalism, it offers no 
difficulties to the Catholic who lives in the presence of mysteries 
and who knows that "the way of man is not in himself." 

To the ordinary educated man looking out on the world in A.D. 
33 the execution of Sejanus must have appeared much more im- 
portant than the crucifixion of Jesus, and the attempts of the 
Government to solve the economic crisis by a policy of free credit 
to producers must have seemed far more promising than the 
doings of the obscure group of Jewish fanatics in an upper 
chamber at Jerusalem. Nevertheless there is no doubt today 
which was the most important and which availed most to alter 
the lot of humanity. All that Roman world with its power and 
wealth and culture and corruption sank into blood and ruin — the 
[259] flood came and destroyed them all ~ but the other world, the 
world of apostles and martyrs, the inheritance of the poor, sur- 
vived the downfall of ancient civilization and became the spirit- 
ual foundation of a new order. 

Christianity literally called a new world into existence to re- 
dress the balance of the old. It did not attempt to reform the 
world, in the sense of the social idealist. It did not start an agita- 
tion for the abolition of slavery, or for peace with Parthia. It did 
not support the claims of the Jews to national self-determination, 
or the Stoic propaganda for an ideal world state. It left Caesar on 
his throne and Pilate and Gallio on their judgment seats and went 
its own way to the new world. 

The Christian solution was a fundamentally different one from 
that of social idealism. And this was not simply due to the fact 
that the world of the first century A.D. was not yet ripe for ideal- 
ism. On the contrary, it had to meet the rivalry of the social mil- 
lenniarism of the Jews, which was more intense, because it was 
more genuinely religious than the social millenniarism of modern 

socialism; and on the other hand it had to meet the humanitarian 
idealism of Hellenism, which was even more rational and even 
more humane than any form of modern idealism. Christianity re- 
fused each of these alternatives, it offered men the answer of the 
Cross — to the Jews a scandal and to the Greeks foolishness, just 
as today it is a scandal to the secular reformer and foolishness to 
the rational idealist. In the life of Christ the power of the world — 
the "torrent of human custom" — at last met with another 
power which it could neither overcome nor circumvent, — the ir- 
resistible power met the immovable obstacle, and the result was 
the tragedy of the Cross, a tragedy which seemed at first sight to 
manifest the triumph of the forces of evil and the victory of the 
flesh over the spirit, but which was in reality the turning point in 
the history of humanity and the starting point of a new order. 

Not that this new order was itself the new world to which 
Christianity had looked. Christendom is not Christianity. It is 
not the City of God and the Kingdom of Christ. Humanity re- 
mains much the same as it has always been. To quote Newman: 

[260] The state of great cities now is not so very different from 
what it was of old; at least not so different as to show that the main 
work of Christianity has lain with the face of society, or what is 
called the world. Again the highest class in the community and 
the lowest are not so different from what they would be respec- 
tively without the knowledge of the Gospel as to allow it to be 
said that Christianity has succeeded with the world as the world 
in its several ranks and classes. [6] 

In reality no age has the right to call itself Christian in an abso- 
lute sense: all stand under the same condemnation. The one 
merit of a relatively Christian age or culture — and it is no small 
one — is that it recognizes its spiritual indigence and stands open 
to God and the spiritual world; while the age or culture that is 
thoroughly non-Christian is closed to God and prides itself on its 
own progress to perfection. No doubt there is a real leaven of 
spiritual progress at work in mankind and the life of the world to 
come is already stirring in the womb of the present. But the prog- 
ress of the new world is an invisible one and its results can only be 
fully seen at the end of time. Apparent success often means spirit- 

ual failure, and the way of failure and suffering is the royal road 
of Christian progress. Wherever the Church has seemed to domi- 
nate the world politically and achieves a victory within the secular 
sphere, she has had to pay for it in a double measure of temporal 
and spiritual misfortune. Thus the triumph of the Orthodox 
Church in the Byzantine Empire was followed first by the loss of 
the East to Islam and then by the schism with the West. The 
mediaeval attempt to create a Christian theocracy was followed 
by the Reformation and the destruction of the religious unity of 
Western Europe, while the attempt that was made both by the 
Puritans and by the monarchies of the Counter- Reformation to 
dragoon society into orthodoxy and piety was followed by the in- 
credulity and anticlericalism of the eighteenth century and the 
secularization of European culture. 

It is necessary that Christians should remember that it is not 
the business of the Church to do the same thing as the State to 
build a Kingdom like the other kingdoms of men, only better; nor 
[261] to create a reign of earthly peace and justice. The Church exists 
to be the light of the world, and if it fulfills its function, the world 
is transformed in spite of all the obstacles that human powers 
place in the way. A secularist culture can only exist, so to speak, 
in the dark. It is a prison in which the human spirit confines itself 
when it is shut out of the wider world of reality. But as soon as 
the light comes, all the elaborate mechanism that has been con- 
structed for living in the dark becomes useless. The recovery of 
spiritual vision gives man back his spiritual freedom. And hence 
the freedom of the Church is in the faith of the Church and the 
freedom of man is in the knowledge of God. 

1 Isaiah 2, 12-17. 

2 John 17, 9; 14, 30. 

3 Luke 17, 7 

4 Sermons on Subjects of the Day, 10. 

5 Enquiry, pp. 84 et seq. 

6 Parochial Sermons (1st ed.), iv, pp. 175-176. 


"Christianity and Contradiction in History," 
a condensed version of Chapter V of Beyond Politics (1939), 
"Christianity and Politics," reprinted in Dynamics of World History 
(1958), pp. 262-269. 

Is history a reasonable process or is it essentially incalculable and 
irrational? It seems to me that the Christian is bound to believe 
that there is a spiritual purpose in history — that it is subject to 
the designs of Providence and that somehow or other God's will 
is done. But that is a very different thing from saying that history 
is rational in the ordinary sense of the word. There are, as it were, 
two levels of rationality, and history belongs to neither of them. 
There is the sphere of completely rationalized human action — 
the kind of rationality that we get in a balance sheet or in the 
plans and specifications of an architect or an engineer. And there 
is the higher sphere of rationality to which the human mind at- 
tains, but which is not created by it - the high realities of philoso- 
phy and abstract truth. 

But between these two realms there is a great intermediate re- 
gion in which we live, the middle earth of life and history; and 
that world is submitted to forces which are both higher and lower 
than reason. There are forces of nature in the strict sense and there 
are higher forces of spiritual good and evil which we cannot mea- 
sure. Human life is essentially a warfare against unknown powers ~ 
not merely against flesh and blood, which are themselves ir- 
rational enough, but against principalities and powers, against 
"the Cosmocrats of the Dark Aeon," to use St. Paul's strange and 
disturbing expression; powers which are more than rational and 
[263] which make use of lower things, things below reason, in order 
to conquer and rule the world of man. 

Of course if we were pure spirits, the whole process of history 
and human life might be intelligible and spiritually transparent. 
We should be like a man in calm weather on a clear tropical la- 
goon who can look down and see the lower forms of life in their 
infinite variety and the powers of evil like the sharks that move 
silently and powerfully through the clear water, and who can also 
look up and see the ordered march of the stars. 

But this is not given to man. The actor in history is like the 
captain who sees nothing but clouds above and waves below, who 
is driven by the wind and the current. He must trust in his chart 
and his compass, and even these cannot deliver him from the 
blind violence of the elements. If he makes a mistake, or if the 
chart fails him, he dies in a blind flurry of dark water and with 
him the crew who have no responsibility except to obey orders 
and to trust their officers. 

It is true that the theologian and the philosopher aspire to the 
spiritual state but they only attain to it partially and momentar- 
ily; for the rest of their lives, outside their science, they belong to 
the world of other men. But the politician and the man of action 
are like the sailor, and the State is like the ship which may be 
wrecked by an error of a single man; and it makes no difference if 
it is a democracy or a dictatorship, just as it makes no difference 
whether the ship is sailed by the owner or whether the captain is 
chosen by the officers and the officers by the crew. 

It seems the very nature of history that individuals and ap- 
parently fortuitous events have an incalculable effect upon the 
fortunes of the whole society. As Burke wrote: "It is often im- 
possible to find any proportion between the apparent force of any 
moral cause or any assigned, and their known operation. We are 
therefore obliged to deliver up their operation to mere chance, or 
more piously (perhaps more rationally) to the occasional interpo- 
sition and the irresistible hand of the Great Disposer. The death 
of a man at a critical juncture, his disgust, his retreat, his disgrace, 
have brought innumerable calamities on a whole nation. A com- 
[264] mon soldier, a child, a girl at the door of an inn have changed 
the face of the future and almost of Nature. "[1] 

This has always been so, but it is seen in the most striking way 
when it comes to a question of moralizing politics or realizing so- 
cial ideals in practice. It is here that we see most clearly and 
tragically the contradiction between human aims and historical 
results and the way in which fate seems to bring so much that is 
best in social endeavour to sterility or to disaster. Take two ex- 
amples from the period of modern history connected with the 

French Revolution. First frustration of social idealism. The 
great Revolution a hundred and fifty years ago was a delib- 
erate attempt to moralize political relations and to create a new 
order based on moral principles which would vindicate the hu- 
man rights of every individual whatever his economic or social 
position. Under the guidance of men who believed most whole- 
heartedly in these ideals, it led nevertheless to as complete a sub- 
version and denial of those rights as it is possible to conceive. It 
led to the denial of freedom of conscience and freedom of opin- 
ion; it led to terrorism and wholesale judicial murder, until every 
man of principles, whatever his principles were, had been exter- 
minated or outlawed, and society returned with gratitude and 
relief to the absolute dictatorship of an unscrupulous military 
despot. For Bonaparte appeared to his contemporaries as an angel 
of light in comparison with the idealists and social reformers who, 
instead of creating a Utopia, had made a hell on earth. 

In the second place, to take an example from the opposite 
side, there is the case of the war in La Vendee which brings up 
both the question of the just war and that of the conscientious 
objector. The men of La Vendee had every justification for their 
resistance to the revolutionary government, since it had clearly 
violated the rights of freedom of opinion and religious liberty 
that were laid down in the constitution, and since the latter ex- 
pressly admitted the right of the citizen to resist the government 
in such cases. The actual occasion of the rising was moreover the 
question of military service in defence of the revolution against 

1 Letters on the Regicide Peace, ed. E. J. Payne, p. 6. 

[265] which the men of La Vendee had a direct and simple consci- 
entious objection. Hence the war in La Vendee was at once a 
just war if ever there was one and a case of spontaneous popular 
resistance to compulsory service in what they considered an 
unjust war. 

Yet what was the result? Instead of sending 12,000 conscripts 
to the army, of whom a small proportion would have been killed 
or wounded, the whole population was involved in the most 
desperate struggle that any people ever experienced: a struggle 

which is said to have cost nearly a quarter of a million lives, which 
caused practically every town and village and farm to be de- 
stroyed, and which contributed largely, if indirectly, to the horrors 
of the Reign of Terror in the rest of France. And so their desire 
to keep out of a war they did not approve of caused another war 
of a far more atrocious kind, and their determination to vindicate 
their just rights led to every kind of injustice and cruelty. 

These are extreme instances, but all through history we find 
plentiful evidence of the same non-moral and irrational tendency 
which causes idealists and humanitarians to despair. And at the 
present day humanitarianism and moral idealism have become so 
much a part of our tradition that Christians often unconsciously 
or even consciously accept the same point of view and are 
tempted to despair by the failure of Christian ideals to work out 
in practice. 

Actually, however, Christianity has never accepted these postu- 
lates, and the Christian ought to be the last person in the world 
to lose hope in the presence of the failure of the right and the 
apparent triumph of evil. For all this forms part of the Christian 
view of life, and the Christian discipline is expressly designed to 
prepare us to face such a situation. 

Christianity, to a far greater degree than any other religion, is a 
historical religion and it is knit up inseparably with the living 
process of history. Christianity teaches the existence of a divine 
progress in history which will be realized through the Church in 
the Kingdom of God. But at the same time it recognizes the es- 
sential duality of the historical process — the co-existence of two 
opposing principles, each of which works and finds concrete so- 
[266] cial expression in history. Thus we have no right to expect 
that Christian principles will work in practice in the simple way that 
a political system may work. The Christian order is a supernatural 
order. It has its own principles and its own laws which are not 
those of the visible world and which may often seem to contra- 
dict them. Its victories may be found in apparent defeat and its 
defeats in material success. 

We see the whole thing manifested clearly and perfectly once 

and once only, i.e. in the life of Jesus, which is the pattern of the 
Christian life and the model of Christian action. The life of 
Jesus is profoundly historical; it is the culminating point of 
thousands of years of living historical tradition. It is the fulfil- 
ment of a historical purpose, towards which priests and prophets 
and even politicians had worked, and in which the hope of a 
nation and a race was embodied. Yet, from the worldly point 
of view, from the standpoint of a contemporary secular historian, 
it was not only unimportant, but actually invisible. Here was a 
Galilean peasant who for thirty years lived a life so obscure as to 
be unknown even to the disciples who accepted his mission. 
Then there followed a brief period of public action, which did 
not lead to any kind of historical achievement but moved 
swiftly and irresistibly towards its catastrophic end, an end that 
was foreseen and deliberately accepted. 

And out of the heart of this catastrophe there arose something 
completely new, which even in its success was a deception to the 
very people and the very race that had staked their hopes on it. 
For after Pentecost after the outpouring of the Spirit and the 
birth of the infant Church there was an event as unforeseen and 
inexplicable as the Incarnation itself, the conversion of a Cilician 
Jew, who turned away from his traditions and from his own 
people so that he seemed a traitor to his race and his religion. So 
that ultimately the fulfilment of the hope of Israel meant the 
rejection of Israel and the creation of a new community which 
was eventually to become the State religion of the Roman Em- 
pire which had been the enemy of Jew and Christian alike. 

If you look on all this without faith, from the rationalist point 
[267]of view, it becomes no easier to understand. On the contrary 
it becomes even more inexplicable; credo quia incredibile. 

Now the life of Christ is the life of the Christian and the life 
of the Church. It is absurd for a Christian who is a weak human 
vehicle of this world-changing force to expect a quiet life. A 
Christian is like a red rag to a bull — to the force of evil that seeks 
to be master of the world and which, in a limited sense, but in 
a very real sense, is, as St. John says, the Lord of this world. And 
not only the individual but the Church as an historic com- 

munity follows the same pattern and finds its success and failure 
not where the politician finds them, but where Christ found 

The Church lives again the life of Christ. It has its period of 
obscurity and growth and its period of manifestation, and this is 
followed by the catastrophe of the Cross and the new birth that 
springs from failure. And what is most remarkable is that the 
enemies of the Church — the movements that rend and crucify 
her — are in a sense her own offspring and derive their dynamic 
force from her. Islam, the Protestant Reformation, the Liberal 
Revolution, none of them would have existed apart from Chris- 
tianity — they are abortive or partial manifestations of the spiritual 
power which Christianity has brought into history. "I have come 
to cast fire on the earth and what will I, but that it be kindled." 

It is easy to give way to the dominant tendency to surrender to 
the spirit of the age and the spirit of the world by shutting our 
eyes to the errors of public opinion and the evils and injustice of 
popular action; it is the same temptation which in the past made 
religious men flatter the pride of the great and overlook the 
injustice of the powerful. But it is also easy, and it is a more in- 
sidious temptation, to adopt an attitude of negative hostility to 
the spirit of the age and to take refuge in a narrow and exclusive 
fanaticism which is essentially the attitude of the heretic and 
the sectarian and which does more to discredit Christianity and 
render it ineffective than even worldliness and time-serving. For 
the latter are, so to speak, external to the Church's life, whereas 
the former poisons the sources of its spiritual action and causes 
it to appear hateful in the eyes of men of good will. 

[268] It is the nature of heresy to sacrifice Catholic truth and Chris- 
tian unity by concentrating its attention on the immediate solu- 
tion of some pressing contemporary problem of Christian 
thought or action. The heretic goes astray by attempting to take 
a short cut, owing to a natural human impatience at the apparent 
slowness and difficulty of the way of pure faith. 

But the Church also has to take the difficult way of the Cross, 
to incur the penalties and humiliations of earthly failure without 

any compensating hope of temporal success. She is not an alterna- 
tive and a rival to the State, and her teaching does not take the 
place of political needs and ideologies; yet she cannot disinterest 
herself in the corporate life of the community and confine her 
attentions to the individual soul. The Church is no human 
society, but she is the channel by which divine life flows into 
human society and her essential task is the sanctification of 
humanity as a whole in its corporate as well as in its individual 

Human society today is in a state of rapid change. The life 
is going out of the old political and juridical forms and a new 
community is being created whose appearance marks a new 
epoch in history. It is not the Church's business to stop this 
great social change, and she could not if she would, but neither 
can she abdicate her essential mission, which remains the same 
in the new circumstances as of old. The new social forms offer 
new opportunities - new openings for the action of grace. 

We are perhaps too much inclined to look to authority to lay 
down beforehand a programme of action when the initiative 
must come in the first place from the spontaneous personal re- 
action of individuals to the circumstances of the moment. Even 
in the natural sphere the statesmen and organizers of this world 
do not know what is going to happen from one day to another. 
But whereas this obscurity and incalculability is inevitably a 
source of discouragement to the statesman, whose whole business 
is to achieve temporal success, it should be of no great importance 
to the Christian who sees the end of history as dawn and not as 

When Our Lord spoke of the future He gave His disciples no 
[269] optimistic hopes, no visions of social progress; He described 
all the things that we are afraid of today and more — wars, persecu- 
tions, disasters and the distress of nations. But strange to say 
He used this forecast of calamity as a motive for hope. "When 
you see these things," He said, "look up and lift up your heads 
for your redemption is at hand." 

That may seem a strange philosophy of history, but it is the 
authentic philosophy of Christ, and if the prospect of these 

things causes us to hang down our heads instead of lifting them 
up, it shows that there is something wrong with our point of 
view. I know we are apt to feel this does not apply to us - that it 
merely refers to the end of the world. But to the Christian the 
world is always ending, and every historical crisis is, as it were, 
a rehearsal for the real thing. 


"The Kingdom of God and History," 

from the symposium The Kingdom of God and History, 

edited by H. G. Woods et al.; Vol. 3 of Official Oxford Conference 

Books, published in England by Allen & Unwin (1938) and in the 

United States by Willette, Clark & Co; reprinted in Dynamics of 

World History (1958), pp. 262-286. 

THE development of a historical sense — a distinct consciousness 
of the essential characteristics of different ages and civilizations — 
is a relatively recent achievement; in fact it hardly existed 
before the nineteenth century. It is above all the product of the 
Romantic movement which first taught men to respect the 
diversity of human life, and to regard culture not as an abstract 
ideal but as the vital product of an organic social tradition. No 
doubt, as Nietzsche pointed out, the acquisition of this sixth 
sense is not all pure gain, since it involves the loss of that noble 
self-sufficiency and maturity in which the great ages of civilization 
culminate — "the moment of smooth sea and halcyon self-suf- 
ficiency, the goldenness and coldness which all things show that 
have perfected themselves." It was rendered possible only by the 
"democratic mingling of classes and races" which is characteristic 
of modern European civilization. "Owing to this mingling the 
past of every form and mode of life and of cultures which were 
formerly juxtaposed with or superimposed on one another flow 
forth into us," so that "we have secret access above all to the 
labyrinth of imperfect civilizations and to every form of semi- 
barbarity that has at any time existed on earth."[l] 

Yet it is impossible to believe that the vast widening of the 

range and scope of consciousness that the historical sense has 
brought to the human race is an ignoble thing, as Nietzsche 
would have us believe. It is as though man had at last climbed 
[271] from the desert and the forest and the fertile plain onto the bare 
mountain slopes whence he can look back and see the course of 
his journey and the whole extent of his kingdom. And to the 
Christian, at least, this widening vision and these far horizons 
should bring not doubt and disillusionment, but a firmer faith 
in the divine power that has guided him and a stronger desire for 
the divine kingdom which is the journey's end. 

It is in fact through Christianity above all that man first 
acquired that sense of a unity and a purpose in history without 
which the spectacle of the unending change becomes meaning- 
less and oppressive. 

"The rational soul," writes Marcus Aurelius, "traverses the 
whole universe and the surrounding void, and surveys its form, 
and it extends itself with the infinity of time and embraces and 
comprehends the periodical revolutions of all things, and it com- 
prehends that those who come after us will see nothing new, nor 
have those before us seen anything more, but in a manner he who 
is forty years old, if he has any understanding at all, has seen by 
virtue of the uniformity that prevails all things that have been 
or that will be."[2] 

This denial of the significance of history is the rule rather than 
the exception among philosophers and religious teachers through- 
out the ages from India to Greece and from China to Northern 
Europe. Even Nietzsche, who grew up in the tradition of the 
modern historical movement and himself possessed so delicate 
and profound a historical sense, could not escape the terrifying 
vision of The Return of All Things, even though it seemed 
to nullify his own evolutionary gospel of the superman. "Behold," 
he wrote, "this moment. Two roads meet here and none has 
ever reached their end. . . " "From this gateway a long eternal 
road runs back: behind us lies an eternity. Must not all things 
that can run have run this road? Must not all that can happen 
have already happened, have already been done and passed 
through? And if all has already been, what ... of this moment? 

Must not this gateway also have been before? And are not all 
[272] things knotted together in such a way that this moment draws 
after it all that is to come, and therefore also itself? For all that 
can run — even in this long road behind, must run it yet again. 

"And this slow spider that crawls in the moonlight and this 
moonlight itself, and you and I whispering together in the gate- 
way, must we not all have been before? 

"And must we not come again and run that other long road 
before us —that long shadowy road — must we not return eter- 
nally?" [3] 

As St. Augustine said, [4] it is only by Christ the Straight Way 
that we are delivered from the nightmare of these eternal cycles 
which seem to exercise a strange fascination over the human 
mind in any age and clime. 

Nevertheless, Christianity does not itself create the historical 
sense. It only supplies the metaphysical and theological setting 
for history and an attempt to create a theory of history from 
the data of revealed truth alone will give us not a history but a 
theodicy like St. Augustine's City of God or the Praeparatio 
Evangelica of Eusebius. The modern historical consciousness is 
the fruit of Christian tradition and Christian culture but not of 
these alone. It also owes much to humanism, which taught the 
European mind to study the achievements of ancient civilization 
and to value human nature for its own sake. And it was the con- 
tact and conflict of these two traditions and ideals — Christianity 
and humanism — classical and mediaeval culture — that found ex- 
pression in the Romantic movement in which the modern his- 
torical sense first attained full consciousness. For it was only then 
and thus that the human mind realized that a culture forms an 
organic unity, with its own social traditions and its own spiritual 
ideals, and that consequently we cannot understand the past by 
applying the standards and values of our own age and civilization 
to it, but only by relating historical facts to the social tradition to 
which they belong and by using the spiritual beliefs and the moral 
and intellectual values of that tradition as the key to their inter- 

[273] Hence the essence of history is not to be found in facts but in 
traditions. The pure fact is not as such historical. It only becomes 
historical when it can be brought into relation with a social tra- 
dition so that it is seen as part of an organic whole. A visitor 
from another planet who witnessed the Battle of Hastings would 
possess far greater knowledge of the facts than any modern his- 
torian, yet this knowledge would not be historical for lack of any 
tradition to which it could be related; whereas the child who says 
"William the Conqueror 1066" has already made his atom of 
knowledge an historical fact by relating it to a national tradition 
and placing it in the time-series of Christian culture. 

Wherever a social tradition exists, however small and unim- 
portant may be the society which is its vehicle, the possibility of 
history exists. It is true that many societies fail to realize this 
possibility, or realize it only in an unscientific or legendary form, 
but on the other hand this legendary element is never entirely 
absent from social tradition, and even the most civilized society 
has its national legend or myth, of which the scientific historian is 
often an unconscious apologist. No doubt it is the ideal of the 
modern historian to transcend the tradition of his own society 
and to see history as one and universal, but in fact such a universal 
history does not exist. There is as yet no history of humanity, 
since humanity is not an organized society with a common tra- 
dition or a common social consciousness. All the attempts that 
have hitherto been made to write a world history have been in 
fact attempts to interpret one tradition in terms of another, 
attempts to extend the intellectual hegemony of a dominant 
culture by subordinating to it all the events of other cultures 
that come within the observer's range of vision. The more 
learned and conscientious a historian is, the more conscious he 
is of the relativity of his own knowledge, and the more ready he 
is to treat the culture that he is studying as an end in itself, an 
autonomous world which follows its own laws and owes no 
allegiance to the standards and ideals of another civilization. 
For history deals with civilizations and cultures rather than civili- 
zation, with the development of particular societies and not with 
the progress of humanity. 

[274] Consequently if we rely on history alone we can never hope 
to transcend the sphere of relativity; it is only in religion and 
metaphysics that we can find truths that claim absolute and 
eternal validity. But as we have said, non-Christian and pre- 
Christian philosophy tend to solve the problem of history by a 
radical denial of its significance. 

The world of true Being which is man's spiritual home is the 
world that knows no change. The world of time and change is the 
material world from which man must escape if he would be saved. 
For all the works of men and the rise and fall of kingdoms are 
but the fruits of ignorance and lust - mala vitae cupido — and even 
the masters of the world must recognize in the end the vanity 
of their labours like the great Shogun Hideyoshi who wrote on his 

Alas, as the grass I fade 
As the dew I vanish 
Even Osaka Castle 
Is a dream within a dream. 

Yet even the religion that denies the significance of history is 
itself a part of history and it can only survive in so far as it 
embodies itself in a social tradition and thus "makes history" 
The spiritual experience from which a religion receives its initial 
impetus — like the contemplation of Buddha under the Bo tree or 
Mohammed's vision in the cavern on Mt. Hira — may seem as 
completely divested of historical and social reference as any 
human experience can be. Yet as soon as the teacher comes down 
among men and his followers begin to put his teachings into 
practice a tradition is formed which comes into contact with 
other social traditions and embraces them or is absorbed by them, 
until its very nature seems to be changed by this chemistry of 
history. Thus we see Buddhism passing from India to Central 
Asia and China, and from China to Korea and Japan and again 
to Ceylon and Burma and Siam. We see it taking different forms 
in different cultures and at the same time changing the cultures 
themselves, while all the while the religion itself ignores historical 
[275] change and remains with its gaze averted from life, absorbed in 
the contemplation of Nirvana. 

Now at first sight it may seem that this is true of Christianity; 
that it also has been absorbed against its will in the stream while 
its attention has been concentrated on eternal truths and its 
hopes fixed on eternal life. It is easy to find examples in Chris- 
tianity of world flight and world denial no less extreme than that 
of the Indian sannyasi: the fathers of the desert, St. Simeon on 
his pillar, Thomas Kempis in his cell and the countless pious 
Christians of every age and country who have regarded this life 
as an exile in the vale of tears and have oriented their whole 
existence towards death and immortality. In fact the current 
criticism of Christianity is based on this conception and the 
communist sneer about "pie in the sky when you die" is merely a 
crude and malicious statement of what has always been an 
essential element of the Christian faith and one which is nowhere 
more prominent than in the gospel itself. 

Nevertheless this is only one side of the Christian view of life, 
for Christianity has always possessed an organic relation to history 
which distinguishes it from the great Oriental religions and phi- 
losophies. Christianity can never ignore history because the 
Christian revelation is essentially historical and the truths of 
faith are inseparably connected with historical events. The Sacred 
Scriptures of our religion are not made up of expositions of meta- 
physical doctrines like the Vedanta, they form a sacred history, 
the record of God's dealings with the human race from the crea- 
tion of man to the creation of the Church. And the whole of this 
history finds its centre in the life of an historic personality who 
is not merely a moral teacher or even an inspired hierophant of 
divine truth, but God made man, the Saviour and restorer of the 
human race, from whom and in whom humanity acquires a new 
life and a new principle of unity. 

Thus the Christian faith leaves no room for the relativism of a 
merely historical philosophy. For here at one moment of time 
and space there occurs an event of absolute value and incompa- 
rable significance for all times and all peoples. Amid the diversity 
and discontinuity of human civilizations and traditions there 
[276] appears One who is one and the same for all men and for all ages: 
in whom all the races and traditions of man find their common 


Yet on the other hand the Incarnation does not involve any 
denial of the significance of history such as we find in the Gnostic 
and Manichaean heresies. It is itself in a sense the fruit of history, 
since it is the culminating point of one tradition, and the starting 
point of another. The appeal to tradition is one of the most 
characteristic features of the gospel. The New Testament opens 
with "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ the son of David, 
the son of Abraham," and the first preaching of the apostles 
starts with an appeal to a tradition that goes back to Ur of the 
Chaldeans and the earliest origins of the Hebrew people. 

Thus, the Christian Church possessed its own history, which 
was a continuation of the history of the chosen people, and this 
history had its own autonomous development which was inde- 
pendent of the currents of secular history. We have the age of the 
apostles and the age of the martyrs and the age of the fathers, 
each of them built on the same foundations and each contribut- 
ing its part to the building up of the City of God. 

The chief problem, therefore, which we have to study is that 
of the relations between this sacred tradition and the other count- 
less traditions that make up human history. For Christianity, no 
less than the other world religions, has entered the stream of 
historical change and has passed from one race to another, from 
civilization to barbarism and from barbarism to civilization. Men 
of different periods with different historical backgrounds and 
different national or racial traditions all belong to the all-embrac- 
ing tradition of the Christian Church. We have Hellenistic 
Christians and Byzantine Christians, Romans and Syrians, 
Mediaeval Christians and Renaissance Christians, seventeenth- 
century Spaniards and nineteenth-century Englishmen. Are these 
differences of culture and race accidental and ephemeral — details 
that have no relevance to the Christian view of life and the Chris- 
tian interpretation of History? Or are they also of spiritual signifi- 
cance as elements in the divine plan and forms through which the 
providential purpose of God in history is manifested? 

[277] Now from the early Christian point of view, at least, it would 

seem that the whole significance of history was entirely comprised 
in that sacred tradition of which we have spoken. The key to 
history — the mystery of the ages — was to be found in the tradition 
of the chosen people and the sacred community, and outside that 
tradition among the Gentiles and the kingdoms of men there is 
a realm of endless strife and confusion, a succession of empires 
founded by war and violence and ending in blood and ruin. The 
Kingdom of God is not the work of man and does not emerge by 
a natural law of progress from the course of human history. It 
makes a violent inruption into history and confounds the work of 
man, like the stone hewn from the mountain without human 
agency which crushes the image of the four world empires into 

One of the most striking features of the Christian tradition is, 
in fact, its historical dualism: in the Old Testament the opposi- 
tion between the chosen people and the Gentiles; in the New, 
the opposition between the church and the world - in the 
Augustinian theodicy, the two cities, Jerusalem and Babylon - 
the community of charity and the community of self-will. Yet 
this dualism is never an absolute one. Even the Old Testament, 
in spite of its insistence on the unique privilege of Israel as the 
exclusive bearer of the divine promise, also recognizes the hand 
of God in the history of the Gentiles. Even the powers that 
seem most hostile to the people of God are the instrument by 
which God works out his purpose. This is shown most remark- 
ably in the Isaianic prophecy with regard to Cyras, for here a 
Gentile ruler is addressed by the messianic title as chosen and 
anointed by God to do his will and to deliver his people. No 
doubt here and elsewhere the divine action in history always has 
a direct reference to the fortunes of the people of God. But the 
converse is also true, for God's dealings with his people are of 
profound significance for the future of the Gentiles. In the end 
the Holy City will be the resort of all peoples; the Gentiles will 
bring their riches into it, and from it there will go forth the law 
of justice and grace to all the nations of the earth. 

And in the New Testament there is a still further recognition 
[278] of a limited but intrinsic value in the social order and social 
traditions that lie outside the dispensation of grace. Even the pagan 

state is God's servant in so far as it is the guardian of order and 
the administrator of justice. And in the higher sphere of grace, 
the passing of the old racial restrictions and the opening of the 
Kingdom to all nations involved at least in principle the conse- 
cration of every nation and of every social tradition in so far as 
they were not corrupted by sin. And so we have the reception into 
the church of Greek philosophy and scholarship, and of Roman 
law and leadership, until the whole civilized world found itself 
Christian. The vital thing was not the conversion of the Empire 
and the union of church and state, but the gradual penetration 
of culture by the Christian tradition, until that tradition em- 
braced the whole of the life of Western man in all its historic 
diversity and left no human activity and no social tradition un- 

With this coming in of the nations and the establishment of 
the Kingdom of Christ among the Gentiles the Christian inter- 
pretation of prophecy seemed to have been fulfilled. From the 
time of St. Augustine Christian millenniarism was generally 
abandoned and the messianic kingdom was identified with the 
triumph of the church — "ecclesia et nunc est regnum Christi 
regnumque coelorum." It seemed to the men of that age wit- 
nessing the fall of the Empire and the ruin of civilization that 
nothing remained to be accomplished except the last things. 
Consequently the Christian interpretation of history became 
mainly retrospective, and the present and the future of man's 
attention were concentrated not on history but on the end of 
history which seemed close at hand. 

But with the passing of ages and the birth of new nations and 
new forms of culture, new problems presented themselves to 
the Christian conscience. The Augustinian theology with its in- 
tense realization of the inherited burden of evil which weighs 
down the human race and its conception of divine grace as a 
supernatural power which renews human nature and changes the 
course of history, continued to inspire the mediaeval outlook, 
and the mediaeval interpretation of history is still based on the 
[279] Augustinian conception of the two cities. But whereas St. Au- 
gustine presents this opposition primarily as a conflict between 
the Christian Church and the heathen world, the Middle Ages 

saw it above all as a struggle between the forces of good and evil 
within Christian society. The reform of the church, the restora- 
tion of moral order, and the establishment of social justice — these 
were the vital problems that occupied the mind of mediaeval 
Christendom from the tenth century onwards; and the whole 
movement of reform from the time of St. Odo of Cluny to that 
of St. Bernard and Otto of Freising was consciously based on an 
interpretation of history which applied the Augustinian concept 
of the two cities to the contemporary crisis between church and 
state or rather between the religious and secular forces that were 
at war within the Christian community. This neo- Augustinian 
view of history finds its most direct expression in the writings of 
Odo of Cluny in the tenth century, Bonizo of Sutri in the 
eleventh and Otto of Freising in the twelfth, but it also inspired 
some of the ablest partisans of the Empire such as the author of 
the treatise De Unitate Ecclesiae conservanda. For the mediaeval 
empire and indeed the mediaeval kingship were not regarded by 
their supporters as secular institutions in our sense of the word. 
They were the leaders of the Christian people and the defenders 
of the Christian faith, and it was to them rather than to the 
papacy and the priesthood that the government of Christendom 
as an historical "temporal" order had been committed by God. 
This tradition of Christian imperialism was not destroyed by 
the victory of the papacy over the Empire. In fact it found its 
most remarkable expression in the fourteenth century in Dante's 
theory of the providential mission of the Roman Empire as the 
society through which the human race would realize its potential 
unity and attain universal peace, and of the particular vocation of 
the messianic prince, the mystical Dux who would be the saviour 
of Italy and the reformer of the Church. Here for the first time 
we have a Christian interpretation of history which looks beyond 
the sacred Judaeo-Christian tradition and admits the independ- 
ent value and significance of the secular tradition of culture. 
There are in fact two independent but parallel dispensations — the 
[280] dispensation of grace, which is represented by the Church, and 
the natural dispensation by which humanity attains its rational 
end by the agency of the Roman people, which was ordained by 
nature and elected by God for universal empire. 

Thus while on the one hand Dante's interpretation of history 

looks back to the mediaeval tradition of the Holy Roman Empire 
and the Augustinian ideal of the City of God, on the other hand 
it looks forward to the humanism of the Renaissance and the 
modern liberal ideal of universal peace as well as the modern na- 
tionalist ideal of the historical mission of a particular people and 
state. And this idea of a predestined correspondence between the 
secular tradition of human civilization embodied in the Roman 
Empire and the religious tradition of supernatural truth embod- 
ied in the Catholic Church finds its philosophical basis in the 
Thomist doctrine of the concordance of nature and grace. If it 
had been adopted by Thomism as the basis of the interpretation 
of history, it might well have developed with the growth of his- 
torical knowledge into a really catholic philosophy of history in 
which the different national traditions were shown, on the anal- 
ogy of that of Rome, as contributing each according to its own 
mission and its natural aptitudes towards the building up of a 
Christian civilization. Actually, however, Dante's attachment to 
the dying cause of Ghibelline imperialism prevented his philoso- 
phy from exercising any wide influence on Catholic thought. It 
remained an impressive but eccentric witness to the universalism 
of mediaeval thought and the lost spiritual unity of mediaeval 

For the close of the Middle Ages was marked by the great re- 
ligious revolution which destroyed the unity of Western Chris- 
tendom and divided the peoples of Europe by the strife of sects 
and the conflict of opposing religious traditions. There was no 
longer one common Catholic faith and consequently there was 
no longer a common sacred tradition or a common interpretation 
of history. It is true that the Reformers inherited far more from 
the Middle Ages than they themselves realized, and this was par- 
ticularly the case with regard to the interpretation of history. 
Their conception of history, no less than that of the Middle Ages, 
[281] is based on the Bible and St. Augustine, and the Augustinian 
scheme of world history, based on the opposition and conflict of 
the two cities, had as great an influence on Luther and Calvin 
and the seventeenth-century Puritan divines as it had on the 
Catholic reformers five centuries earlier. 

Nevertheless the Catholic interpretation of history is organi- 

cally related to the Catholic conception of the nature and office of 
the church, and in so far as Protestantism formed a new concep- 
tion of the church, it ultimately involved a new interpretation of 
history. Thus already, long before the emergence of the new 
schools of Biblical criticism and ecclesiastical history that have so 
profoundly affected the modern Protestant attitude to the Cath- 
olic tradition, a divergence between the Catholic and Protestant 
interpretations of history is plainly visible. 

At first sight the difference between sixteenth-century Catholi- 
cism and Protestantism is the difference between the traditional 
and the revolutionary conceptions of Christianity and of the 
church. To the Catholic the church was the Kingdom of God on 
earth in via — the supernatural society through which and in 
which alone humanity could realize its true end. It was a visible 
society with its own law and constitution which possessed divine 
and indefectible authority. It remained through the ages one and 
the same, like a city set on a hill, plain for all men to see, handing 
on from generation to generation the same deposit of faith and 
the same mandate of authority which it had received from its 
divine Founder and which it would retain whole and intact until 
the end of time. 

The Reformers, on the other hand, while maintaining a similar 
conception of the church as the community through which God's 
purpose towards the human race is realized, refused to identify 
this divine society with the actual visible hierarchical church, as 
known to history. Against the Catholic view of the church as the 
visible City of God, they set the apocalyptic vision of an apostate 
church, a harlot drunk with the blood of the saints, sitting on the 
seven hills and intoxicating the nations with her splendour and 
her evil enchantments. The true church was not this second 
Babylon, but the society of the elect, the hidden saints who fol- 
[282] lowed the teaching of the Bible rather than of the hierarchy and 
who were to be found among the so-called heretics - Hussites, 
Wycliffites, Waldensians and the rest, rather than among the 
servants of the official institutional church. 

The result of this revolutionary attitude to the historic church 
was a revolutionary, catastrophic, apocalyptic and discontinuous 

view of history. As Calvin writes, the history of the church is a 
series of resurrections. Again and again the church becomes cor- 
rupt, the Word is no longer preached, life seems extinct, until 
God once more sends forth prophets and teachers to bear witness 
to the truth and to reveal the evangelical doctrine in its pristine 
purity. Thus the Reformation may be compared to the Renais- 
sance since it was an attempt to go back behind the Middle Ages, 
to wipe out a thousand years of historical development and to re- 
store the Christian religion to its primitive "classical" form. Yet 
on the other hand this return to the past brought the Protestant 
mind into fresh contact with the Jewish and apocalyptic sources 
of the Christian view of history, so that the Reformation led to an 
increased emphasis on the Hebraic prophetic and apocalyptic ele- 
ments in the Christian tradition as against the Hellenic, patristic 
and metaphysical elements that were so strongly represented 
alike in patristic orthodoxy and in mediaeval Catholicism. 

Hence we find two tendencies in Protestant thought which 
find their extreme expression respectively in Socinianism and 
millenniarism. One represents the attempt to strip off all accre- 
tions, to separate religion from history and to recover the pure 
timeless essence of Christianity. The other represents a crude and 
vehement reassertion of the historical time-element in Christian- 
ity and an attempt to strip it of all its non- Jewish, mystical, philo- 
sophical and theological elements. The resultant type of religion 
was marked by some of the worst excesses of fanaticism and ir- 
rationality, yet on the other hand it was intensely social in spirit, 
as we see, for example, in the case of the Anabaptists, and it made 
an earnest, if one-sided and over-simplified, effort to provide a 
Christian interpretation of history. 

But though these two tendencies seem hostile to one an- 
other, they were not in fact mutually exclusive. For example, John 
[283] Milton could be at the same time a millenniarist and a Socinian, 
and eighteenth-century Unitarians, such as Priestley, who seem to 
represent the Socinian type of Protestantism in an almost pure 
state, acquired from the opposite tradition a kind of secularized 
millenniarism which found expression in the doctrine of progress. 
The development of this rationalized theology and of this secu- 
larized millenniarism, whether in its revolutionary-socialistic or 

revolutionary-liberal forms (but especially the latter), is of central 
importance for the understanding of modern culture. It was in 
fact a new reformation, which attempted to rationalize and 
spiritualize religion in an even more complete and drastic way 
than the first Reformation had done, but which ended in empty- 
ing Christianity of all supernatural elements and interpreting his- 
tory as the progressive development of an immanent principle. 

Thus it is not only the materialistic interpretation of history 
but the idealistic interpretation as well which is irreconcilable 
with the traditional Christian view, since it eliminates that sense 
of divine otherness and transcendence, that sense of divine judg- 
ment and divine grace which are the very essence of the Christian 
attitude to history. This holds true of Protestantism as well as of 
Catholicism. Nevertheless it must be admitted that the clash is 
much sharper and more painful in the case of the latter. Partly, 
no doubt, because the great idealist thinkers, such as Kant, were 
themselves men of Protestant origin who had preserved a strong 
Protestant ethos, it has been possible for Protestants to accept the 
idealist interpretation of history without any serious conflict, and 
in the same way it was on Protestant rather than on Catholic 
foundations that the new liberal theology of immanence de- 
veloped itself. 

Catholicism, on the other hand, showed little sympathy to the 
idealist movement which it tended to regard as an external and 
non-religious force. Its attitude to history was at once more tra- 
ditionalist and more realist than that of Protestantism and it did 
not readily accept the idea of an inevitable law of progress which 
was accepted by both liberal and Protestant idealists as the back- 
ground of their thought and the basic principle of their interpre- 
tation of history. Consequently there is a sharp contrast between 
[284] the Catholic and the liberal-idealist philosophies such as hardly 
exists in the Protestant world. As Croce brings out so clearly in 
his History of Europe in the Nineteenth Century, it is not a con- 
flict between religion and science or religion and philosophy, but 
between two rival creeds, based on an irreconcilable opposition of 
principles and resulting in a completely different view of the 
world. For, as Croce again points out, the idealist conceptions of 
monism, immanence and self-determination are the negation of 

the principles of divine transcendence, divine revelation, and di- 
vine authority on which the Catholic view of God and man, of 
creation and history and the end of history is based. 

Hence the opposition between liberalism and Catholicism is 
not due, as the vulgar simplification would have it, to the "reac- 
tionary" tendencies of the latter but to the necessity of safeguard- 
ing the absolute Christian values, both in the theological and the 
historical spheres. For if Christianity is the religion of the Incar- 
nation, and if the Christian interpretation of history depends on 
the continuation and extension of the Incarnation in the life of 
the church, Catholicism differs from other forms of Christianity 
in representing this incarnational principle in a fuller, more con- 
crete, and more organic sense. As the Christian faith in Christ is 
faith in a real historical person, not an abstract ideal, so the Cath- 
olic faith in the church is faith in a real historical society, not an 
invisible communion of saints or a spiritual union of Christians 
who are divided into a number of religious groups and sects. And 
this historic society is not merely the custodian of the sacred 
Scriptures and a teacher of Christian morality. It is the bearer of 
a living tradition which unites the present and the past, the living 
and the dead, in one great spiritual community which transcends 
all the limited communities of race and nation and state. Hence, it 
is not enough for the Catholic to believe in the Word as con- 
tained in the sacred Scriptures, it is not even enough to accept 
the historic faith as embodied in the creeds and interpreted by 
Catholic theology, it is necessary for him to be incorporated as a 
cell in the living organism of the divine society and to enter into 
communion with the historic reality of the sacred tradition. Thus 
to the student who considers Catholicism as an intellectual sys- 
[285] tern embodied in theological treatises, Catholicism may seem far 
more legalist and intellectualist than Protestantism, which em- 
phasizes so strongly the personal and moral-emotional sides of re- 
ligion, but the sociologist who studies it in its historical and social 
reality will soon understand the incomparable importance for 
Catholicism of tradition, which makes the individual a member 
of a historic society and a spiritual civilization and which influ- 
ences his life and thought consciously and unconsciously in a 
thousand different ways. 

Now the recognition of this tradition as the organ of the Spirit 
of God in the world and the living witness to the supernatural 
action of God on humanity is central to the Catholic understand- 
ing and interpretation of history. But so tremendous a claim in- 
volves a challenge to the whole secular view of history which is 
tending to become the faith of the modern world. In spite of the 
differences and contradictions between the progressive idealism of 
liberalism and the catastrophic materialism of communism all of 
them agree in their insistence on the immanence and autonomy 
of human civilization and on the secular community as the ulti- 
mate social reality. Alike to the liberal and to the communist the 
Catholic tradition stands condemned as "reactionary" not merely 
for the accidental reason that it has been associated with the po- 
litical and social order of the past, but because it sets the divine 
values of divine faith and charity and eternal life above the hu- 
man values — political liberty, social order, economic prosperity, 
scientific truth — and orientates human life and history towards a 
supernatural and super-historical end. And since the modern so- 
ciety is everywhere tending towards ideological uniformity which 
will leave no room for the private worlds of the old bourgeois 
culture, the contradiction between secularism and Catholicism is 
likely to express itself in open conflict and persecution. 

No doubt the prospect of such a conflict is highly distasteful to 
the modern bourgeois mind, even when it is Christian. The lib- 
eral optimism which has been so characteristic of Anglo-Saxon 
religious thought during the last half century led men to believe 
that the days of persecution were over and that all men of good 
will would agree to set aside their differences of opinion and unite 
[286] to combat the evils that were universally condemned — vice and 
squalor and ignorance. But from the standpoint of the Christian 
interpretation of history there is no ground for such hopes. Christ 
came not to bring peace but a sword, and the Kingdom of God 
comes not by the elimination of conflict but through an increas- 
ing opposition and tension between the church and the world. 
The conflict between the two cities is as old as humanity and 
must endure to the end of time. And though the church may 
meet with ages of prosperity, and her enemies may fail and the 
powers of the world may submit to her sway, these things are no 
criterion of success. She wins not by majorities but by martyrs and 

the cross is her victory. 

Thus in comparison with the optimism of liberalism the Chris- 
tian view of life and the Christian interpretation of history is 
profoundly tragic. The true progress of history is a mystery which 
is fulfilled in failure and suffering and which will only be revealed 
at the end of time. The victory that overcomes the world is not 
success but faith and it is only the eye of faith that understands 
the true value of history. 

Viewing history from this standpoint the Christian will not 
be confident in success or despondent in failure. "For when you 
shall hear of wars and rumors of wars be not afraid, for the end is 
not yet." None knows where Europe is going and there is no law 
of history by which we can predict the future. Nor is the future 
in our own hands, for the world is ruled by powers that it does not 
know, and the men who appear to be the makers of history are in 
reality its creatures. But the portion of the Church is not like 
these. She has been the guest and the exile, the mistress and the 
martyr, of nations and civilizations and has survived them all. 
And in every age and among every people it is her mission to carry 
on the work of divine restoration and regeneration, which is the 
true end of history. 

1 F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 224. 

2 Marcus Aurelius, xi, 1, trans. G. Long. 

3 Also Sprach Zarathustra, 30:2, 2. 

4 De Civitate Dei, XII, 20. 


"St Augustine and the City of God," from the article "St. Augustine 
and His Age" in the symposium A Monument to St Augustine (1930); 
reprinted in Enquiries (1933), and Dynamics of World History (1958), 
pp. 294-325. 

ST. AUGUSTINE'S work of The City of God was, like all his 
books, a livre de circonstance, written with a definitely contro- 

versial aim in response to a particular need. But during the four- 
teen years from 412 to 426 — during which he was engaged upon 
it, the work developed from a controversial pamphlet into a vast 
synthesis which embraces the history of the whole human race 
and its destinies in time and eternity. It is the one great work of 
Christian antiquity which professedly deals with the relation of 
the state and of human society in general to Christian principles; 
and consequently it has had an incalculable influence on the de- 
velopment of European thought. Alike to Orosius and to Charle- 
magne, to Gregory I and Gregory VII, to St. Thomas and Bos- 
suet, it remained the classical expression of Christian political 
thought and of the Christian attitude to history. And in modern 
times it has not lost its importance. It is the only one among the 
writings of the Fathers which the secular historian never alto- 
gether neglects, and throughout the nineteenth century it was 
generally regarded as justifying the right of St. Augustine to be 
treated as the founder of the philosophy of history. 

Of late years, however, there had been a tendency, especially in 
Germany, to challenge this claim and to criticize St. Augustine's 
method as fundamentally anti-historical, since it interprets his- 
tory according to a rigid theological scheme and regards the whole 
process of human development as predetermined by timeless and 
[295] changeless transcendental principles. 1 Certainly The City of God 
is not a philosophical theory of history in the sense of rational in- 
duction from historical facts. He does not discover anything from 
history, but merely sees in history the working out of universal 
principles. But we may well question whether Hegel or any of the 
nineteenth-century philosophers of history did otherwise. They 
did not derive their theories from history, but read their philoso- 
phy into history. 

What St. Augustine does give us is a synthesis of universal his- 
tory in the light of Christian principles. His theory of history is 
strictly deduced from his theory of human nature, which, in turn, 
follows necessarily from his theology of creation and grace. It is 
not a rational theory in so far as it begins and ends in revealed 
dogma; but it is rational in the strict logic of its procedure and it 
involves a definitely rational and philosophic theory of the nature 
of society and law and of the relation of social life to ethics. 

Herein consists its originality, since it unites in a coherent sys- 
tem two distinct intellectual traditions which had hitherto 
proved irreconcilable. The Hellenic world possessed a theory of 
society and a political philosophy, but it had never arrived at a 
philosophy of history. The Greek mind tended towards cosmo- 
logical rather than historical speculation. In the Greek view of 
things, Time had little significance or value. It was the bare 
"number of movement," an unintelligible element which in- 
truded itself into reality in consequence of the impermanence 
and instability of sensible things. Consequently it could possess 
no ultimate or spiritual meaning. It is intelligible only in so far as 
it is regular — that is to say, tending to a recurrent identity. And 
this element of recurrence is due to the influence of the heavenly 
bodies, those eternal and divine existences whose movement im- 
parts to this lower world all that it has of order and intelligibility. 

Consequently, in so far as human history consists of unique 
and individual events it is unworthy of science and philosophy. 
Its value is to be found only in that aspect of it which is inde- 
pendent of time — in the ideal character of the hero, the ideal wis- 

1 E.g. H. Grundmann, Studien fiber Joachim von Floris (1927), pp. 74-5; 
cf. also H. Scholz, Glaube und Unglaube in der Weltgeschichte (1911). 

[296] dom of the sage, and the ideal order of the good commonwealth. 
The only spiritual meaning that history possesses is to be found 
in the examples that it gives of moral virtue or political wisdom or 
their opposites. Like Greek art, Greek history created a series of 
classical types which were transmitted as a permanent possession 
to later antiquity. Certainly Greece had its philosophical histori- 
ans, such as Thucydides and, above all, Polybius, but to them 
also the power which governs history is an external necessity — 
Nemesis or Tyche — which lessens rather than increases the in- 
trinsic importance of human affairs. 

The Christian, on the other hand, possessed no philosophy of 
society or politics, but he had a theory of history. The time ele- 
ment, in his view of the world, was all-important. The idea, so 
shocking to the Hellenic mind or to that of the modern rational- 

ist, that God intervenes in history and that a small and uncul- 
tured Semitic people had been made the vehicle of an absolute 
divine purpose, was to him the very centre and basis of his faith. 
Instead of the theogonies and mythologies which were the charac- 
teristic forms of expression in Greek and oriental religion, Chris- 
tianity from the first based its teaching on a sacred history. 2 

Moreover, this history was not merely a record of past events; 
it was conceived as the revelation of a divine plan which em- 
braced all ages and peoples. As the Hebrew prophets had already 
taught that the changes of secular history, the rise and fall of 
kingdoms and nations, were designed to serve God's ultimate pur- 
pose in the salvation of Israel and the establishment of His King- 
dom, so the New Testament teaches that the whole Jewish dis- 
pensation was itself a stage in the divine plan, and that the barrier 
between Jew and Gentile was now to be removed so that human- 
ity might be united in an organic spiritual unity.8 The coming of 
Christ is the turning-point of history. It marks "the fullness of 
times, "4 the coming of age of humanity and the fulfilment of the 

2 Cf . for example, the speech of Stephen in Acts 7. 

3 Eph. 2. 

4 St. Paul uses two expressions (Gal. iv, 4 and Eph. i, 10) : [Greek] 
on the fullness of time in respect to man's age, and [Greek] 

the completion of the cycle of seasons. Cf . Prat, Theologie de S. Paul (sec- 
ond edition), II, 151. 

[297] cosmic purpose. Henceforward mankind had entered on a new 
phase. The old things had passed away and all things were be- 
come new. 

Consequently the existing order of things had no finality for 
the Christian. The kingdoms of the world were judged and their 
ultimate doom was sealed. The building had been condemned 
and the mine which was to destroy it was laid, though the exact 
moment of the explosion was uncertain. The Christian had to 
keep his eyes fixed on the future like a servant who waits for the 
return of his master. He had to detach himself from the present 
order and prepare himself for the coming of the Kingdom. 

Now from the modern point of view this may seem to destroy 
the meaning of history no less effectively than the Hellenic view 
of the insignificance of time. As Newman writes, "When once 
the Christ had come . . . nothing remained but to gather in His 
Saints. No higher Priest could come, no truer doctrine. The Light 
and Life of men had appeared and had suffered and had risen 
again; and nothing more was left to do. Earth had had its most 
solemn event, and seen its most august sight; and therefore it was 
the last time. And hence, though time intervene between Christ's 
first and second coming, it is not recognized (as I may say) in the 
Gospel Scheme, but is, as it were, an accident . . . When He 
says that He will come soon, 'soon' is not a word of time but of 
natural order. This present state of things, 'the present distress', 
as St. Paul calls it, is ever close upon the next world and resolves 
itself into it."5 

But on the other hand, although the kingdom for which the 
Christian hoped was a spiritual and eternal one, it was not a kind 
of abstract Nirvana, it was a real kingdom which was to be the 
crown and culmination of history and the realization of the des- 
tiny of the human race. Indeed, it was often conceived in a tem- 
poral and earthly form; for the majority of the early Fathers in- 
terpreted the Apocalypse in a literal sense and believed that 
Christ would reign with His saints on earth for a thousand years 

5 Parochial Sermons, VI, xvii. 

[298] before the final judgment. 6 So vivid and intense was this 
expectation that the new Jerusalem seemed already hovering over the 
earth in readiness for its descent, and Tertullian records how the 
soldiers of Severus's army had seen its walls on the horizon, shin- 
ing in the light of dawn, for forty days, as they marched through 
Palestine. Such a state of mind might easily lead, as it did in the 
case of Tertullian, to the visionary fanaticism of Montanism. But 
even in its excesses it was less dangerous to orthodoxy than the 
spiritualistic theosophy of the Gnostics, which dissolved the 
whole historical basis of Christianity, and consequently it was de- 
fended by apologists, such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, as a 
bulwark of the concrete reality of the Christian hope. 

Moreover, all Christians, whether they were millenniarists or 
not, believed that they already possessed a pledge and foretaste of 
the future kingdom in the Church. They were not, like the other 
religious bodies of the time, a group of individuals united by com- 
mon beliefs and a common worship, they were a true people. All 
the wealth of historical associations and social emotion which 
were contained in the Old Testament had been separated from its 
national and racial limitations and transferred to the new inter- 
national spiritual community. Thereby the Church acquired 
many of the characteristics of a political society; that is to say, 
Christians possessed a real social tradition of their own and a 
kind of patriotism which was distinct from that of the secular 
state in which they lived. 

This social dualism is one of the most striking characteristics 
of early Christianity. Indeed, it is characteristic of Christianity in 
general; for the idea of the two societies and the twofold citizen- 
ship is found nowhere else in the same form. It entered deeply 
into St. Augustine's thought and supplied the fundamental 
theme of The City of God. In fact, St. Augustine's idea of the 
two cities is no new discovery but a direct inheritance from tradi- 
tion. In its early Christian form, however, this dualism was much 

6 Tixeront: Histoire des Dogmes I, 217 ff. On millenniarism at Rome in 
the third century cf. d'Ales, La Theologie de S. Hippolyte, v. 

[299] simpler and more concrete than it afterwards became. The 
mediaeval problem of the co-existence of the two societies and the 
two authorities within the unity of the Christian people was yet 
to arise. Instead there was the abrupt contrast of two opposing 
orders — the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world — the 
present age and the age to come. The Empire was the society of 
the past, and the Church was the society of the future, and, 
though they met and mingled physically, there was no spiritual 
contact between them. It is true, as we have seen, that the Chris- 
tian recognized the powers of this world as ordained by God and 
observed a strict but passive obedience to the Empire. But this 
loyalty to the state was purely external. It simply meant, as St. Au- 
gustine says, that the Church during her commixture with Baby- 

Ion must recognize the external order of the earthly state which 
was to the advantage of both — utamur et nos sua pace. 7 

Hence there could be no bond of spiritual fellowship or com- 
mon citizenship between the members of the two societies. In his 
relations with the state and secular society the Christian felt him- 
self to be an alien — peregrinus; his true citizenship was in the 
Kingdom of Heaven. Tertullian writes, "Your citizenship, your 
magistracies and the very name of your curia is the Church of 
Christ. . . . We are called away even from dwelling in this 
Babylon of the Apocalypse, how much more from sharing in its 
pomps? . . . For you are an alien in this world, and a citizen of 
the city of Jerusalem that is above. "8 

It is true that Tertullian was a rigorist, but in this respect, at 
any rate, his attitude does not differ essentially from that of St. 
Cyprian or of the earlier tradition in general. There was, however, 
a growing tendency in the third century for Christians to enter 
into closer relations with the outer world and to assimilate Greek 
thought and culture. This culminated in Origen's synthesis of 
Christianity and Hellenism, which had a profound influence, not 

7 De Civitate Dei, XIX, xxvi. "That the peace of God's enemies is useful 
to the piety of His friends as long as their earthly pilgrimage lasts." Cf . also 
ibid., xvii. 

8 De Corona, xiii. 

[300] only on theology, but also on the social and political attitude of 
Christians. Porphyry remarks that "though Origen was a Chris- 
tian in his manner of life, he was a Hellene in his religious 
thought and surreptitiously introduced Greek ideas into alien 

This is, of course, the exaggeration of a hostile critic; neverthe- 
less it is impossible to deny that Origen is completely Greek in 
his attitude to history and cosmology. He broke entirely, not only 
with the millenniarist tradition, but also with the concrete real- 
ism of Christian eschatology, and substituted in its place the cos- 
mological speculations of later Greek philosophy. The Kingdom 
of God was conceived by him in a metaphysical sense as the realm 

of spiritual reality — the supersensuous and intelligible world. The 
historical facts of Christian revelation consequently tended to 
lose their unique value and became the symbols of higher imma- 
terial realities — a kind of Christian Mythos. In place of the sacred 
history of humanity from the Fall to the Redemption we have a 
vast cosmic drama like that of the Gnostic systems, in which the 
heavenly spirits fall from their immaterial bliss into the bondage 
of matter, or into the form of demons. Salvation consists not in 
the redemption of the body, but in the liberation of the soul from 
the bondage of matter and its gradual return through the seven 
planetary heavens to its original home. Consequently there is no 
longer any real unity in the human race, since it consists of a 
number of individual spirits which have become men, so to 
speak, accidentally, in consequence of their own faults in a previ- 
ous state of existence. 

No doubt these ideas are not the centre of Origen's faith. They 
are counterbalanced by his orthodoxy of intention and his desire 
to adhere to Catholic tradition. Nevertheless, they inevitably pro- 
duced a new attitude to the Church and a new view of its relation 
to humanity. The traditional conception of the Church as an ob- 
jective society, the new Israel, and the forerunner of the Kingdom 
of God fell into the background as compared with a more intel- 
lectualist view of the Church as the teacher of an esoteric doc- 
trine or gnosis which leads the human soul from time to eternity. 

[301]Here again Origen is the representative of the Graeco-oriental 
ideals which found their full expression in the mystery religions. 
The result of this change of emphasis was to reduce the oppo- 
sition which had previously existed between the Church and secu- 
lar society. Unlike the earlier Fathers, Origen was quite prepared 
to admit the possibility of a general conversion of the Empire, 
and in his work against Celsus he paints a glowing picture of the 
advantages that the Empire would enjoy if it was united in one 
great "City of God" under the Christian faith. But Origen's City 
of God, unlike Augustine's, has perhaps more affinity with the 
world state of the Stoics than with the divine Kingdom of Jewish 
and Christian prophecy. It found its fulfilment in the Christian 
Empire of Constantine and his successors, as we can see from the 
writings of Eusebius of Caesarea, the greatest representative of the 

tradition of Origen in the following age. 

Eusebius goes further than any of the other Fathers in his re- 
jection of millenniarism and of the old realistic eschatology. For 
him prophecy finds an adequate fulfilment in the historical cir- 
cumstances of his own age. The Messianic Kingdom of Isaiah is 
the Christian Empire, and Constantine himself is the new David, 
while the new Jerusalem which St. John saw descending from 
heaven like a bride adorned for her husband means to Eusebius 
nothing more than the building of the Church of the Holy Sepul- 
chre at Constantine's orders.9 

Such a standpoint leaves no room for the old Christian and 
Jewish social dualism. The emperor is not only the leader of 
the Christian people, his monarchy is the earthly counterpart 
and reflection of the rule of the Divine Word. As the Word 
reigns in heaven, so Constantine reigns on earth, purging it from 
idolatry and error and preparing men's minds to receive the truth. 
The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of God 

9 Life of Constantine, III, xxxiii. So too he applies the passage in Dan. vii, 
17. ("And the saints of the Most High shall receive the Kingdom") to Dal- 
matius and Hannibalianus, who were made Caesars by Constantine (Oration 
on the Tricennalia of Constantine, hi.). 

[302] and of His Christ, and nothing more remains to do this side 
of eternity. 10 

It is not enough to dismiss all this as mere flattery on the part 
of a courtier prelate. The Eusebian ideal of monarchy has a great 
philosophical and historical tradition behind it. It goes back, on 
the one hand, to the Hellenistic theory of kingship, as repre- 
sented by Dio Chrysostom, and, on the other, to the oriental 
tradition of sacred monarchy which is as old as civilization itself. 
It is true that it is not specifically Christian and it is entirely 
irreconcilable with the strictly religious attitude of men like 
Athanasius, who were prepared to sacrifice the unity of the Em- 
pire to a theological principle. Nevertheless, it was ultimately 
destined to triumph, at least in the East, for it finds its fulfilment 
in the Byzantine Church- State indissolubly united under the 

rule of an Orthodox emperor. 

In the West, however, Christian thought followed an entirely 
different course of development. At the time when Origen was 
creating a speculative theology and a philosophy of religion, the 
attention of the Western Church was concentrated on the con- 
crete problems of its corporate life. From an intellectual point 
of view the controversies on discipline and Church order which 
occupied the Western mind seem barren and uninteresting in 
comparison with the great doctrinal issues which were being de- 
bated in the East. But historically they are the proof of a strong 
social tradition and of an autonomous and vigorous corporate life. 

Nowhere was this tradition so strong as in Africa; indeed, so far 
as its literary and intellectual expression is concerned, Africa was 
actually the creator of the Western tradition. By far the larger 
part of Latin Christian literature is African in origin, and the rest 
of the Latin West produced no writers, save Ambrose and 
Jerome, who are worthy to be compared with the great African 
doctors. This, no doubt, was largely due to the fact that Africa 
possessed a more strongly marked national character than any 
other Western province. The old Libyo-Phoenicean population 
had been submerged by the tide of Roman culture, but it still 

10 Eusebius develops the parallel at great length in his Oration on the Tri- 
cennalia of Constantine, ii-x. 

[303] subsisted, and during the later Empire it began to reassert its 
national individuality in the same way as did the subject nation- 
alities of the Eastern provinces. And, as in Syria and Egypt, this 
revival of national feeling found an outlet through religious 
channels. It did not go so far as to create a new vernacular Chris- 
tian literature, as was the case in Syria, for the old Punic tongue 
survived mainly among the peasants and the uneducated classes, 11 
but though it expressed itself in a Latin medium, its content was 
far more original and characteristic than that of the Syriac or 
Coptic literatures. 

This is already apparent in the work of Tertullian, perhaps the 
most original genius whom the Church of Africa ever produced. 

After the smooth commonplaces of Pronto or the florid preciosity 
of Apuleius the rhetoric of Tertullian is at once exhilarating and 
terrific. 12 It is as though one were to go out of a literary salon into 
a thunderstorm. His work is marked by a spirit of fierce and in- 
domitable hostility to the whole tradition of pagan civilization, 
both social and intellectual. He has no desire to minimize the 
opposition between the Church and the Empire, for all his hopes 
are fixed on the passing of the present order and the coming of 
the Kingdom of the Saints. Similarly he has no sympathy with 
the conciliatory attitude of the Alexandrian School towards 
Greek philosophy. "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" he 
writes. "What concord is there between the Academy and the 
Church?" . . . "Our instruction comes from the Porch of Solomon 
who taught that the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart. 
Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of 
Stoic, Platonic and dialectic composition. We want no curious 
disputation after possessing Christ Jesus. . . ."13 

This uncompromising spirit remained characteristic of the 
African Church, so that Carthage became the antithesis of Alex- 

11 Although the emperor Severus, according to his biographer, found it 
easier to express himself in Punic than in Latin. 

12 It is true that Tertullian's style is no less artificial than that of Apuleius, 
by whom he was perhaps influenced, but the general effect that it produces is 
utterly different. 

13 De Praescriptione, vii (Homes's trans.). 

[304] andria in the development of Christian thought. It remained a 
stronghold of the old realistic eschatology and of millenniarist 
ideas, which were held not only by Tertullian, but by Arnobius 
and Lactantius and Commodian. The work of the latter, espe- 
cially, shows how the apocalyptic ideas of the Christians might 
become charged with a feeling of hostility to the injustice of the 
social order and to the Roman Empire itself. In his strangely 
barbaric verses, which, nevertheless, sometimes possess a certain 
rugged grandeur, Commodian inveighs against the luxury and 
oppression of the rich and exults over the approaching doom of 
the heathen world-power, 

"Tollatur imperium, quod fuit inique repletum, 
Quod per tributa mala diu macerabat omnes. 

Haec quidem gaudebat, sed tota terra gemebat; 

Vix tamen advenit isti retributio digna, 

Luget in aeternum quae se jactabat aeterna. "14 

And the same intransigent spirit shows itself in the cult of 
martyrdom, which attained an extraordinarily high development 
in Africa, especially among the lower classes. Cultivated pagans 
saw in the martyrs the rivals and substitutes of the old gods and 
regarded their cult as typical of the barbarous anti-Roman or anti- 
Hellenic spirit of the new religion. Maximus, the old pagan 
scholar of Madaura, protested to St. Augustine that he could not 
bear to see Romans leaving their ancestral temples to worship at 
the tombs of low-born criminals with vile Punic names, such as 
Mygdo and Lucitas and Namphanio "and others in an endless 
list with names abhorred both by gods and men." And he con- 
cludes : "It almost seems to me at this time as if a second battle of 
Actium had begun in which Egyptian monsters, doomed soon to 

14 Carmen apologeticum, 889-90 and 921-3. "May the Empire be de- 
stroyed which was filled with injustice and which long afflicted the world 
with heavy taxes. . . . Rome rejoiced while the whole earth groaned. Yet at 
last due retribution falls upon her. She who boasted herself eternal shall 
mourn eternally." 

[305] perish, dare to raise their weapons against the gods of the Ro- 
mans. "15 

In fact the conversion of the Empire had not altered the fierce 
and uncompromising spirit of African Christianity. On the con- 
trary, the peace of the Church was in Africa merely the occasion 
of fresh wars. The Donatist movement had its origin, like so 
many other schisms, in a local dispute on the question of the 
position of those who had lapsed or compromised their loyalty 
under the stress of persecution. But the intervention of the 
Roman state changed what might have been an unimportant 

local schism into a movement of almost national importance, and 
roused the native fanaticism of the African spirit. To the Donat- 
ists the Catholic Church was "the Church of the traitors" 16 
which had sold its birthright and leagued itself "with the princes 
of this world for the slaughter of the saints." They themselves 
claimed to be the true representatives of the glorious tradition of 
the old African Church, for they also were persecuted by the 
world, they also were a martyr Church, the faithful remnant of 
the saints. 

The African Church had been called by Christ to share in His 
passion, and the persecution of the Donatists was the first act of 
the final struggle of the forces of evil against the Kingdom of 
God. "Sicut enim in Africa factum est, " writes Tyconius, "ita fieri 
oportet in toto mundo, revelari Antichristum sicut et nobis ex 
parte revelatum est." "Ex Africa manifestabitur omnis ecclesia."17 

But the Donatist movement was not only a spiritual protest 
against any compromise with the world; it also roused all the 
forces of social discontent and national fanaticism. The wild 

15 Ep. xvi. 

16 Traditores — primarily those who had delivered (tradere) the sacred books 
to the authorities during the persecution of Diocletian, but the word also 

has the evil association of our "traitor." 

17 From the Commentary on the Apocalypse of Beatus in Monceaux. Hist. 
Litt. de I'Afrique Chretienne, V, p. 288, notes 2 and 3: "For as it has been 
done in Africa, so it must be done in the whole world and Antichrist must be 
revealed, as has been revealed to us in part." "Out of Africa all the Church 
shall be revealed." 

[306] peasant bands of the Circumcellions, who roamed the country, 
with their war-cry of "Deo laudes, " were primarily religious fan- 
atics who sought an opportunity of martyrdom. But they were 
also champions of the poor and the oppressed, who forced the 
landlords to enfranchise their slaves and free their debtors, and 
who, when they met a rich man driving in his chariot, would 
make him yield his place to his footman, as a literal fulfillment of 
the words of the Magnificat, deposuit potentes de sede et exalt- 
avit humiles. In fact, we have in Donatism a typical example of 
the results of an exclusive insistence on the apocalyptic and anti- 

secular aspects of Christianity, a tendency which was destined to 
reappear at a later period in the excesses of the Taborites, the 
Anabaptists and some of the Puritan sects. 

The existence of this movement, so powerful, so self-confident, 
and so uncompromising, had a profound effect on Augustine's 
life and thought. The situation of the Church in Africa was 
essentially different from anything which existed elsewhere. The 
Catholics were not, as in many of the eastern provinces, the 
dominant element in society, nor were they, as in other parts of 
the West, the acknowledged representatives of the new faith 
against paganism. In numbers they were probably equal to the 
Donatists, but intellectually they were the weaker party, since 
with the exception of Optatus of Milevis the whole literary 
tradition of African Christianity had been in the hands of the 
Donatists; indeed, from the schism to the time of Optatus, a 
space of more than fifty years, not a single literary representative 
of the Catholic cause had appeared. 

Hence during the thirty years of his ecclesiastical life St. Au- 
gustine had to fight a continuous battle, not only against the 
paganism and unbelief of the open enemies of Christianity, but 
also against the fanaticism and sectarianism of his fellow-Chris- 
tians. The extinction of the Donatist schism was the work to 
which before all others his later life was dedicated, and it in- 
evitably affected his views of the nature of the Church and its 
relation to the secular power. The Catholics had been in alliance 
with the state since the time of Constantine, and relied upon 
the help of the secular arm both for their own protection and for 

[307] the suppression of the schismatics. Consequently, Augustine 
could no longer maintain the attitude of hostile independence 
towards the state which marked the African spirit, and which the 
Donatists still preserved. Nevertheless, he was himself a true 
African. Indeed, we may say that he was an African first and a 
Roman afterwards, since, in spite of his genuine loyalty towards 
the Empire, he shows none of the specifically Roman patriotism 
which marks Ambrose or Prudentius. Rome is to him always 
"the second Babylon," 18 the supreme example of human pride 
and ambition, and he seems to take a bitter pleasure in recount- 

ing the crimes and misfortunes of her history. 19 On the other 
hand, he often shows his African patriotism, notably in his reply 
to the letter of Maximus of Madaura to which I have already re- 
ferred, where he defends the Punic language from the charge of 
barbarism. 20 

It is true that there is nothing provincial about Augustine's 
mind, for he had assimilated classical culture and especially Greek 
thought to a greater extent than any other Western Father. But 
for all that he remained an African, the last and greatest repre- 
sentative of the tradition of Tertullian and Cyprian, and when 
he took up the task of defending Christianity against the attacks 
of the pagans, he was carrying on not only their work, but also 
their spirit and their thought. If we compare The City of God 
with the works of the great Greek apologists, the Contra Celsum 
of Origen, the Contra Gentes of Athanasius and the Praeparatio 

18 De Civitate Dei, XVIII, ii, xxii. 

19 E.g. the passage on Rome after Cannae in De Civitate Dei, III, xix. 

20 "Surely, considering that you are an African and that we are both settled 
in Africa, you could not have so forgotten yourself when writing to Africans 
as to think that Punic names were a fit theme for censure. . . . And if the 
Punic language is rejected by you, you virtually deny what has been admitted 
by most learned men, that many things have been wisely preserved from 
oblivion in books written in the Punic tongue. Nay, you ought even to be 
ashamed of having been born in the country in which the cradle of this lan- 
guage is still warm." Ep. xvii. (trans. J. G. Cunningham). Julian of Eclanum 
often sneers at St. Augustine as "a Punic Aristotle " and "philosophaster 
Paenorum. " 

[308] Evangelica of Eusebius, we are at once struck by the contrast 
of his method. He does not base his treatment of the subject on 
philosophic and metaphysical arguments, as the Greek Fathers 
had done, but on the eschatological and social dualism, which, 
as we have seen, was characteristic of the earliest Christian teach- 
ing and to which the African tradition, as a whole, had proved 
so faithful. 

Moreover, the particular form in which Augustine expresses 
this dualism, and which supplies the central unifying idea of 
the whole work, was itself derived from an African source, namely 

from Tyconius, the most original Donatist writer of the fourth 
century. 21 Tyconius represents the African tradition in its purest 
and most uncontaminated form. He owes nothing to classical 
culture or to philosophic ideas; his inspiration is entirely Biblical 
and Hebraic. Indeed, his interpretation of the Bible resembles 
that of the Jewish Midrash far more than the ordinary type of 
patristic exegesis. It is a proof of the two-sidedness of Augustine's 
genius that he could appreciate the obscure and tortuous origi- 
nality of Tyconius as well as the limpid classicism of Cicero. He 
was deeply influenced by Tyconius, not only in his interpretation 
of scripture,22 but also in his theology and in his attitude to 
history; above all, in his central doctrine of the Two Cities. In 
his commentary on the Apocalypse, Tyconius had written, "Be- 
hold two cities, the City of God and the City of the Devil.... 
Of them, one desires to serve the world, and the other to serve 
Christ; one seeks to reign in this world, the other to fly from this 
world. One is afflicted, and the other rejoices; one smites, and 
the other is smitten; one slays, and the other is slain; the one in 
order to be the more justified thereby, the other to fill up the 
measure of its iniquities. And they both strive together, the 

21 Strictly speaking, Tyconius was not a Donatist, but an "Afro-Catholic," 
since he believed not that the Donatists were the only true Church but that 
they formed part of the Catholic Church, although they were not in com- 
munion with it. 

22 Cf . especially Augustine's incorporation of the "Rules" of Tyconius in 
his De Doctrina Christiana. 

[309] one that it may receive damnation, the other that it may 
acquire salvation. "23 

This idea had entered deeply into Augustine's thought from 
the first. He was already meditating on it at Tagaste in 390; in 
400 he makes use of it in his treatise On Catechizing the Un- 
learned, and finally, in The City of God, he makes it the subject 
of his greatest work. In his mind, however, the idea had acquired 
a more profound significance than that which Tyconius had given 
it. To the latter, the Two Cities were apocalyptic symbols derived 
from the imagery of the Bible and bound up with his realistic 
eschatological ideas. To Augustine, on the other hand, they had 

acquired a philosophic meaning and had been related to a rational 
theory of sociology. He taught that every human society finds its 
constituent principle in a common will — a will to life, a will to 
enjoyment, above all, a will to peace. He defines a people as a 
"multitude of rational creatures associated in a common agree- 
ment as to the things which it loves. "24 Hence, in order to see 
what a people is like we must consider the objects of its love. 
If the society is associated in a love of that which is good, it will 
be a good society; if the objects of its love are evil, it will be bad. 
And thus the moral law of individual and social life are the same, 
since both to the city and to the individual we can apply the same 
principle — non faciunt bonos vel malos mores nisi boni vel mali 

And thus the sociology of St. Augustine is based on the same 
psychological principle which pervades his whole thought ~ the 
principle of the all-importance of the will and the sovereignty of 
love. The power of love has the same importance in the spiritual 
world as the force of gravity possesses in the physical world.25 
As a man's love moves him, so must he go, and so must he be- 
come; pondus meum amor meus, eo feror quocumque feror. 

23 Beatus, Comm. in Apocalypsin, ed. Florez, pp. 506-7. 

24 De Civitate Dei, XIX, xxiv. 

25 Following the Aristotelian theory according to which every substance 
naturally tends to its "proper place", cf. Augustine, Con- 
fessions, XIII, i, x; De Civitate Dei, XI, xxviii. 

[310] And though the desires of men appear to be infinite they are in 
reality reducible to one. All men desire happiness, all seek after 
peace; and all their lusts and hates and hopes and fears are di- 
rected to that final end. The only essential difference consists in 
the nature of the peace and happiness that are desired, for, by the 
very fact of his spiritual autonomy, man has the power to choose 
his own good; either to find his peace in subordinating his will to 
the divine order, or to refer all things to the satisfaction of his 
own desires and to make himself the centre of his universe "a 
darkened image of the divine Omnipotence." It is here and here 
only that the root of dualism is to be found: in the opposition 
between the "natural man" who lives for himself and desires 

only a material felicity and a temporal peace, and the spiritual 
man who lives for God and seeks a spiritual beatitude and a 
peace which is eternal. The two tendencies of will produce two 
kinds of men and two types of society, and so we finally come to 
the great generalization on which St. Augustine's work is 
founded. "Two lives built two Cities ~ the earthly, which is built 
up by the love of self to the contempt of God, and the heavenly, 
which is built up by the love of God to the contempt of self. "26 

From this generalization springs the whole Augustinian theory 
of history, since the two cities "have been running their course 
mingling one with the other through all the changes of times 
from the beginning of the human race, and shall so move on 
together until the end of the world, when they are destined to be 
separated at the last judgement."27 

In the latter part of The City of God (books xv to xviii) St. 
Augustine gives a brief synopsis of world history from this point 
of view. On the one hand he follows the course of the earthly 
city ~ the mystical Babylon through the ages, and finds its com- 
pletest manifestation in the two world empires of Assyria and 
Rome "to which all the other Kingdoms are but appendices." 
On the other hand, he traces the development of the heavenly 
City: from its beginnings with the patriarchs, through the history 

26 De Civitate Dei, XIV, xxviii. 

27 De Catechizandis Rudibus, XXI, xxxvii; cf. ibid., XIX, xxxi and De 
Civitate Dei, XIV, i, xxviii, XV, i, 11. 

[311] of Israel and the holy city of the first Jerusalem down to 
its final earthly manifestation in the Catholic Church. 

The rigid simplification of history which such a sketch de- 
mands necessarily emphasizes the uncompromising severity of 
St. Augustine's thought. At first sight he seems, no less than 
Tertullian or Commodian, to condemn the state and all secular 
civilization as founded on human pride and selfishness, and to 
find the only good society in the Church and the Kingdom of 
the Saints. And in a sense this conclusion does follow from the 
Augustinian doctrine of man. The human race has been vitiated 

at its source. It has become a waste product - a massa damnata. 
The process of redemption consists in grafting a new humanity 
on to the old stock, and in building a new world out of the debris 
of the old. Consequently, in the social life of unregenerate hu- 
manity St. Augustine sees a flood of infectious and hereditary 
evil against which the unassisted power of the individual will 
struggles in vain. "Woe to thee," he cries, "thou river of human 
custom! Who shall stop thy course? How long will it be before 
thou art dried up? How long wilt thou roll the sons of Eve into 
that great and fearful ocean which even they who have ascended 
the wood (of the Cross) can scarcely cross?"28 

This view of human nature and of the social burden of evil 
finds still further confirmation in the spectacle of universal his- 
tory. St. Augustine, no less than St. Cyprian, 29 sees the kingdoms 
of the world founded in injustice and prospering by bloodshed 
and oppression. He did not share the patriotic optimism of 
writers like Eusebius and Prudentius, for he realized, more keenly 
perhaps than any other ancient writer, at what a cost of human 
suffering the benefits of the imperial unity had been purchased. 
"The imperial city," he writes, "endeavours to communicate 
her language to all the lands she has subdued to procure a fuller 
society and a greater abundance of interpreters on both sides. 
It is true, but how many lives has this cost! and suppose that 
done, the worst is not past, f or . . . the wider extension of her 
empire produced still greater wars. . . . Wherefore he that does 

28 Confessions, I, xxv. 

29 Cf . especially St Cyprian's Epistle to Donate. 

[312] but consider with compassion all these extremes of sorrow 
and bloodshed must needs say that this is a mystery. But he that 
endures them without a sorrowful emotion or thought thereof, 
is far more wretched to imagine he has the bliss of a god when he 
has lost the natural feelings of a man. "30 

In the same way the vaunted blessings of Roman law are only 
secured by an infinity of acts of injustice to individuals, by the 
torture of innocent witnesses and the condemnation of the guilt- 
less. The magistrate would think it wrong not to discharge the 

duties of his office, "but he never holds it a sin to torture innocent 
witnesses, and when he has made them their own accusers, to put 
them to death as guilty."31 Consequently the consideration of 
history leads Augustine to reject the political idealism of the 
philosophers and to dispute Cicero's thesis that the state rests 
essentially on justice. If this were the case, he argues, Rome 
itself would be no state; in fact, since true justice is not to be 
found in any earthly kingdom, the only true state will be the City 
of God. 32 Accordingly, in order to avoid this extreme conclusion 
he eliminates all moral elements from his definition of the state, 
and describes it, in the passage to which I have already referred, 
as based on a common will, whether the object of that will be 
good or bad.33 

The drastic realism of this definition has proved shocking to 
several modern writers on Augustine. Indeed, so distinguished a 
student of political thought as Dr. A. J. Carlyle is unwilling to 
admit that St. Augustine really meant what he said, 34 and he 
cites the famous passage in book iv, chapter 4, "Set justice aside 
and what are kingdoms but great robberies, "35 to show that the 

30 De Civitate Dei, XIX, vii (trans. J. Healey). 

31 De Civitate Dei, XIX, vi. 

32 De Civitate Dei, II, xxi. 

33 Cf . note 24 above. 

34 "If he did," he writes, "I cannot but feel that it was a deplorable error 
for a great Christian teacher." Social and Political Ideas of Some Great 
Mediaeval Thinkers, ed. F. J. C. Hearnshaw, p. 51. 

35 Remota iustitia quid regna nisi magna latrocinia? 

[313] quality of justice is essential to any real state. The actual tendency 
of the passage, however, appears to be quite the contrary. St. 
Augustine is arguing that there is no difference between the 
conqueror and the robber except the scale of their operations, 
for, he continues, "What is banditry but a little kingdom?" and 
he approves the reply of the pirate to Alexander the Great, "Be- 
cause I do it, with a little ship, I am called a robber, and you, 
because you do it with a great fleet, are called an emperor." 

In reality there is nothing inconsistent or morally discreditable 

about St. Augustine's views. They follow necessarily from his 
doctrine of original sin; indeed, they are implicit in the whole 
Christian social tradition and they frequently find expression in 
later Christian literature. The famous passage in the letter of 
Pope Gregory VII to Hermann of Metz, which has been regarded 
by many modern writers as showing his belief in the diabolic 
origin of the state, is simply an assertion of the same point of 
view; while Newman, who in this, as in so many other respects, 
is a faithful follower of the patristic tradition, affirms the same 
principle in the most uncompromising terms. "Earthly king- 
doms," he says, "are founded, not in justice, but in injustice. 
They are created by the sword, by robbery, cruelty, perjury, craft 
and fraud. There never was a kingdom, except Christ's, which 
was not conceived and born, nurtured and educated, in sin. There 
never was a state, but was committed to acts and maxims which 
is its crime to maintain and its ruin to abandon. What monarchy 
is there but began in invasion or usurpation? What revolution 
has been effected without self-will, violence, or hypocrisy? What 
popular government but is blown about by every wind, as if it 
had no conscience and no responsibilities? What dominion of 
the few but is selfish and unscrupulous? Where is military 
strength without the passion for war? Where is trade without the 
love of filthy lucre, which is the root of all evil?"38 

But from this condemnation of the actual reign of injustice in 
human society it does not follow that either Newman or Augus- 
tine intended to suggest that the state belonged to a non-moral 

38 From "Sanctity the Token of the Christian Empire" in Sermons on 
Subjects of the Day (1st ed.), p. 273. 

[314] sphere and that men in their social relations might follow a 
different law to that which governed their moral life as individu- 
als. On the contrary, St. Augustine frequently insists that it is 
Christianity which makes good citizens, and that the one remedy 
for the ills of society is to be found in the same power which heals 
the moral weakness of the individual soul. "Here also is security 
for the welfare and renown of a commonwealth; for no state is 
perfectly established and preserved otherwise than on the f ounda- 

tions and by the bond of faith and of firm concord, when the 
highest and truest good, namely God, is loved by all, and men 
love each other in Him without dissimulation because they love 
one another for His sake. "37 

Moreover, though St. Augustine emphasizes so strongly the 
moral dualism which is inherent in the Christian theory of life, 
he differs from the earlier representatives of the African school 
in his intense realization of a universal reasonable order which 
binds all nature together and which governs alike the stars in 
their courses and the rise and fall of kingdoms. This belief is one 
of the fundamental elements in Augustine's thought. It domi- 
nated his mind in the first days of his conversion, when he com- 
posed the treatise De Ordine, and it was preserved unimpaired 
to the last. It finds typical expression in the following passage in 
The City of God: "The true God from Whom is all being, 
beauty, form and number, weight and measure; He from Whom 
all nature, mean and excellent, all seeds of forms, all forms of 
seeds, all motions both of forms and seeds, derive and have 
being; ... He (I say) having left neither heaven nor earth, nor 
angel nor man, no, nor the most base and contemptible creature, 
neither the bird's feather, nor the herb's flower, nor the tree's 
leaf, without the true harmony of their parts, and peaceful con- 
cord of composition; it is in no way credible that He would leave 
the kingdoms of men and their bondages and freedoms loose and 
uncomprised in the laws of His eternal providence. "38 

Here Augustine is nearer to Origen than Tertullian; in act this 
fundamental concept of the Universal Law — lex aeterna — is de- 

37 Ep. cxxxvii, c, 18 (trans. Cunningham); cf. Ep. cxxxviii, 15 and 17. 

38 De Civitate Dei, V, xi (trans. J. Healey). 

[315] rived from purely Hellenic sources. It is the characteristically 
Greek idea of cosmic order which pervades the whole Hellenic 
tradition from Heraclitus and Pythagoras to the later Stoics and 
neo-Platonists, and which had reached Augustine by way of 
Cicero and Plotinus.39 This Hellenic influence is to be seen above 
all in Augustine's profound sense of the aesthetic beauty of order 
and in his doctrine that even the evil and suffering of the world 

find their aesthetic justification in the universal harmony of crea- 
tion, an idea which had already found classic expression in the 
great lines of Cleanthes's Hymn to Zeus: 

"Thou knowest how to make even that which is uneven and to 
order what is disordered, and unlovely things are lovely to Thee. 
For so Thou bringest together all things in one, the good with 
the bad, that there results from all one reasonable order abiding 
for ever." 

Thus St. Augustine was able to view history from a much wider 
standpoint than that of Tertullian or the Donatists. He can 
admit that the Earthly City also has its place in the universal 
order, and that the social virtues of the worldly, which from a 
religious point of view are often nothing but "splendid vices," 
yet possess a real value in their own order, and bear their appro- 
priate fruits in social life. And in the same way he believes that 
the disorder and confusion of history are only apparent, and that 
God orders all events in His Providence in a universal harmony 
which the created mind cannot grasp. 
This philosophic universalism is not confined to Augustine's 
conception of the order of nature; it also affects his eschatology 
and his doctrine of the Church. Above all, it determined his 
treatment of the central theme of his great work The City of 
God and entirely alienated him from the realistic literalism of 
the old apocalyptic tradition. To Augustine, the City of God is 
not the concrete millennial kingdom of the older apologists, nor 
is it the visible hierarchical Church. It is a transcendent and time- 
less reality, a society of which "the King is Truth, the law is Love 

39 Cf . . A. Schubert, Augustins Lex Aeterna Lehre nach Inhalt und Quel- 
len (1924). 

[316] and the duration is Eternity."40 It is older than the world, since 
its first and truest citizens are the angels. It is as wide as hu- 
manity, since "in all successive ages Christ is the same Son of 
God, co-eternal with the Father, and the unchangeable Wisdom 
by Whom every rational soul is made blessed." Consequently, 
"from the beginning of the human race whosoever believed in 
Him and in any way knew Him, and lived in a pious and just 

manner according to His precepts, was undoubtedly saved by 
Him in whatsoever time and place he may have lived."41 

Thus the City of God is co-extensive with the spiritual creation 
in so far as it has not been vitiated by sin. It is, in fact, nothing 
less than the spiritual unity of the whole universe, as planned by 
the Divine Providence, and the ultimate goal of creation. 

These conceptions are quite irreconcilable with the old millen- 
niarist belief which was still so strong in the West, and which 
Augustine himself had formerly accepted. They led him to adopt 
Tyconius's interpretation of the crucial passage in the Apoca- 
lypse, according to which the earthly reign of Christ is nothing 
else but the life of the Church militant: an explanation which 
henceforth gained general acceptance in the West. Moreover, he 
went further than Tyconius himself and the great majority of 
earlier writers by abandoning all attempts to give the data of 
prophecy an exact chronological interpretation with regard to 
the future, and by discouraging the prevalent assumption of the 
imminence of the end of the world.42 

Thus St. Augustine influenced Christian eschatology in the 
West no less decisively than Origen had done in the East almost 
two centuries earlier, and to some extent their influences tended 
in the same direction. To Augustine, as to Origen, the ideal of the 
kingdom of God acquired a metaphysical form, and became iden- 
tified with the ultimate timeless reality of spiritual being. The 

40 Ep. cxxxviii, 3, 17. 

41 Ep. cii, 2, 11 and 12. 

42 Ep. cxcix. In another passage he even goes so far as to entertain the hy- 
pothesis of the world being still in existence 500,000 years hence (De Civitate 
Dei, XII, xii); elsewhere, however, he speaks of the world having reached old 
age (e.g. Sermo xxxi. 3; Ep. cxxxvii, 16). 

[317] Augustinian City of God bears a certain resemblance to the 
neo-Platonic concept of the Intelligible World — cosmos neutos: 
indeed, the Christian Platonists of later times, who were equally 
devoted to Augustine and Plotinus, deliberately make a con- 
flation of the two ideas. Thus John Norris of Bemerton writes 

of his "Ideal World": "Thou art that Glorious Jerusalem, whose 
foundations are upon the Holy Hills, the everlasting Mountains, 
even the Eternal Essences and Immutable Ideas of Things. . . . 
Here are ta onta — the Things that are and that truly and chiefly 
are — quas vere summeque sunt, as St. Austin speaks and that be- 
cause they necessarily and immutably are, and cannot either not 
be or be otherwise. Here live, flourish and shine those bright and 
unperishing Realities whereof the Things of this World are but 
the Image, the Reflection, the Shadow, the Echo. "43 

This Platonic idealism did indeed leave a deep imprint on St. 
Augustine's thought. Nevertheless, he never went so far in this 
direction as Origen had done, for his Platonism did not destroy 
his sense of the reality and importance of the historical process. 
To Origen, on the contrary, the temporal process had no finality. 
There was an infinite succession of worlds through which the 
immortal soul pursued its endless course. Since "the soul is im- 
mortal and eternal, it is possible that, in the many and endless 
periods of duration in the immeasurable and different worlds, it 
may descend from the highest good to the lowest evil, or be re- 
stored from the lowest evil to the highest good. "44 This is not 
precisely the classical Hellenic doctrine, since, as I have pointed 
out elsewhere,45 Origen expressly rejects the theory of the Return 
of All Things as irreconcilable with a belief in free will. It has a 
much closer resemblance to the Hindu doctrine of samsara the 
endless chain of existences, which are the fruit of the soul's own 
acts. But although this theory allows for the freedom of the will, 
it is destructive of the organic unity of humanity and of the sig- 

43 J. Norris, An Essay Towards the Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible 
World, I, 430-6 (1701). 

44 Origen: De Principiis, III, i, 21 (trans. I. Crombie). 

45 Progress and Religion (London, 1929), p. 156. 

[318] nificance of its social destinies to an even greater extent than 
the purely Hellenic doctrine. Consequently, St. Augustine rejected 
it no less firmly than the theory of cyclic recurrence. He admits 
that the idea of a perpetual return is a natural consequence of 
the belief in the eternity of the world, but if we once accept 
the doctrine of Creation, as Origen himself did, there is no 

further need for the theory of "the circumrotation of souls" or 
for the belief that nothing new or final can take place in time. 
Humanity has had an absolute beginning and travels to an abso- 
lute goal. There can be no return. That which is begun in time 
is consummated in eternity.46 Hence time is not a perpetually 
revolving image of eternity; it is an irreversible process moving 
in a definite direction. 

This recognition of the uniqueness and irreversibility of the 
temporal process ~ this "explosion of the perpetual cycles" is 
one of the most remarkable achievements of St. Augustine's 
thought. It is true that the change of attitude was implicit in 
Christianity itself, since the whole Christian revelation rests on 
temporal events which nevertheless possess an absolute signifi- 
cance and an eternal value. As St. Augustine says, Christ is the 
straight way by which the mind escapes from the circular maze of 
pagan thought.47 But although this change had been realized by 
faith and religious experience, it still awaited philosophic analysis 
and definition. This it received from St. Augustine, who was not 
only founder of the Christian philosophy of history, but was ac- 
tually the first man in the world to discover the meaning of time. 

His subtle and profound mind found a peculiar attraction in 
the contemplation of the mystery of time which is so essentially 
bound up with the mystery of created being.48 He was intensely 
sensitive to the pathos of mutability - omnis quippe iste ordo pul- 
cherrima rerum valde bonarum modis suis peractis transiturus est; 

46 De Civitate Dei, XII, xi-xx, XXI, xvii. 

47 "Viam rectam sequentes, quae nobis est Cristus, eo duce et salvatore a 
vano et inepto impiorum circuitu iter fidei mentemque avertamus." De 
Civitate Dei, XII, xx. 

48 Cf . De Civitate Dei, XII, xv, xi, vi. 

[319] etMarx quippe in eis factum est et vespera49- but he felt that 
the very possibility of this act of contemplation showed that the 
mind in some sense transcended the process which it contem- 
plated. Consequently he could not rest satisfied with the naive 
objectivism of Greek science which identified time with the 
movement of the heavenly bodies. 50 If the movement of bodies is 

the only measure of time, how can we speak of past and future? 
A movement which has passed has ceased to exist, and a move- 
ment which is to come has not begun to exist. There remains only 
the present of the passing moment, a moving point in nothing- 
ness. Therefore, he concludes, the measure of time is not to be 
found in things, but in the soul — time is spiritual extension — dis- 
tentio animae. 

Thus the past is the soul's remembrance, the future is its expec- 
tation, and the present is its attention. The future, which does 
not exist, cannot be long; what we mean by a long future is a long 
expectation of the future, and a long past means a long memory 
of the past. "It is, then, in thee, my soul, that I measure time. 
. . . The impression which things make upon thee as they pass 
and which remains when they have passed away is what I meas- 
ure. I measure this which is present, and not the things which 
have passed away that it might be. Therefore this is time (tem- 
pora) or else I must say that I do not measure time at all."51 

Finally, he compares the time-process with the recitation of a 
poem which a man knows by heart. Before it is begun the recita- 
tion exists only in anticipation; when it is finished it is all in the 
memory; but while it is in progress, it exists, like time, in three 
dimensions — "the life of this my action is extended into the 
memory, on account of what I have said, and into expectation, 
on account of what I am about to say; yet my attention remains 
present and it is through this that what was future is transposed 
and becomes past." And what is true of the poem holds good 

49 Confessions, XIII, xxxv. "For all this most fair order of things truly good 
will pass away when its measures are accomplished, and they have their morn- 
ing and their evening." 

50 Confessions, XI, xxiii. 

51 Ibid., XI, xxvii. 

[320] equally of each line and syllable of it, and of the wider action 
of which it forms part, and also of the life of man which is com- 
posed of a series of such actions, and of the whole world of man 
which is the sum of individual lives. 52 

Now this new theory of time which St. Augustine originated 
also renders possible a new conception of history. If man is not 
the slave and creature of time, but its master and creator, then 
history also becomes a creative process. It does not repeat itself 
meaninglessly; it grows into organic unity with the growth of hu- 
man experience. The past does not die; it becomes incorporated 
in humanity. And hence progress is possible, since the life of so- 
ciety and of humanity itself possesses continuity and the capacity 
for spiritual growth no less than the life of the individual. 

How far St. Augustine realized all this may indeed be ques- 
tioned. Many modern writers do, in fact, deny that he conceived 
of the possibility of progress or that he had any real historical 
sense. They argue, as I said before, that The City of God con- 
ceives humanity as divided between two static eternal orders 
whose eternal lot is predestined from the beginning. But this 
criticism is, I think, due to a misconception of the Augustinian 
attitude to history. It is true that Augustine did not consider the 
problem of secular progress, but then secular history, in Augus- 
the's view, was essentially unprogressive. It was the spectacle of 
humanity perpetually engaged in chasing its own tail. The true 
history of the human race is to be found in the process of enlight- 
enment and salvation by which human nature is liberated and 
restored to spiritual freedom. Nor did Augustine view this process 
in an abstract and unhistorical way. For he constantly insists on 
the organic unity of the history of humanity, which passes 
through a regular succession of ages, like the life of an individual 
man; 53 and he shows how "the epochs of the world are linked to- 
gether in a wonderful way" by the gradual development of the 
divine plan.54 For God, who is "the unchangeable Governor as 
He is the unchangeable Creator of mutable things, orders all 

52 Confessions, XI, xxviii. 

53 E.g. De Vera Religione, XXVII, 1. 

54 Ep. cxxxvii, 15. 

[321] events in His providence until the beauty of the completed 
course of time, of which the component parts are the dispensations 
adapted to each successive age, shall be finished, like the grand 
melody of some ineffably wise master of song. "55 

It is true, as we have already seen, that in The City of God St. 
Augustine always emphasizes the eternal and transcendent char- 
acter of the Heavenly City in contrast to the mutability and evil 
of earthly life. It is impossible to identify the City of God with 
the Church as some writers have done, since in the Heavenly City 
there is no room for evil or imperfection, no admixture of sinners 
with the saints. But, on the other hand, it is an even more serious 
error to separate the two concepts completely and to conclude 
that St. Augustine assigned no absolute and transcendent value 
to the hierarchical Church. Certainly the Church is not the 
eternal City of God, but it is its organ and representative in the 
world. It is the point at which the transcendent spiritual order 
inserts itself into the sensible world, the one bridge by which the 
creature can pass from Time to Eternity. St. Augustine's point of 
view is, in fact, precisely the same as that which Newman so often 
expresses, though their terminology is somewhat different. Like 
Augustine, Newman emphasizes the spiritual and eternal charac- 
ter of the City of God and regards the visible Church as its earthly 
manifestation. "The unseen world through God's secret power 
and mercy encroaches upon this; and the Church that is seen is 
just that portion of it by which it encroaches, it is like the islands 
in the sea, which are in truth but the tops of the everlasting hills, 
high and vast and deeply rooted, which a deluge covers."56 

And neither in the case of St. Augustine nor in that of Newman 
does this emphasizing of the transcendence and spirituality of 
the City of God lead to any depreciation of the hierarchical 
Church. The latter describes the Christian Church as an Imperial 
power — "not a mere creed or philosophy but a counter kingdom." 
"It occupied ground; it claimed to rule over those whom hitherto 
this world's governments ruled over without rival; and it is only 

55 Ep. cxxxviii, 5 (trans. Cunningham). 

56 "The Communion of Saints" in Parochial Sermons (1st ed.), IV, p. 201. 

[322] in proportion as things that are brought into this kingdom and 
made subservient to it; it is only as kings and princes, nobles and 
rulers, men of business and men of letters, the craftsman and the 
trader and the labourer humble themselves to Christ's Church 

and (in the language of the prophet Isaiah) 'bow down to her with 
their faces toward the earth and lick up the dust of her feet,' that 
the world becomes living and spiritual, and a fit object of love and 
a resting-place for Christians. "57 

The late Dr. Figgis, in his admirable lectures: The Political 
Aspects of St. Augustine's "City of God" has referred to this 
sermon of Newman as showing how far later Western tradition 
earned "the political way of thinking about the Church, which 
had been inaugurated by St. Augustine." But here again New- 
man's teaching really represents, not the views of his own time nor 
even those of the Middle Ages, but a deliberate revival of the 
patristic Augustinian doctrines. We have seen how primitive 
Christianity, and the early Western tradition in particular, 
showed an intense social realism in their eschatology and in their 
conception of the Church and the Kingdom of God. St. Augus- 
the definitely abandoned the millenniarist tradition and adopted 
a thoroughly spiritual eschatology. But he preserved the tradi- 
tional social realism in his attitude to the Church: indeed, he re- 
inforced it by his identification of the Church with the millennial 
kingdom of the Apocalypse. Ecclesia et nunc est regnum Christi 
regnumque caelorum.58 Consequently it is in the Church that the 
prophecies of the kingdom find their fulfilment, and even those 
which seem to refer to the last Judgment may really be applied to 
"that advent of the Saviour by which He is coming through all the 
present time in His Church, that is to say in His members, grad- 
ually and little by little, for it is all His Body."59 

"O beata ecclesia," he writes, "quodam tempore audisti, quo- 
dam tempore vidisti. . . . Omnia enim quae modo complentur 
antea prophetata sunt. Erige oculos ergo, et diffunde per mun- 

57 Sermons on Subjects of the Day (1st ed.), pp. 257 and 120. 

58 De Civitate Dei, XX, X. 

59 De Civitate Dei, XX, v. 

[323] dum: vide jam hereditatem usque ad terminos orbis terrae. Vide 
jam impleri quod dictum est: Adorabunt eum omnes reges terrae, 
omnes gentes servient illi. "60 

The grain of mustard-seed has grown until it is greater than all 
the herbs, and the great ones of this world have taken refuge un- 
der its branches. The yoke of Christ is on the neck of kings, and 
we have seen the head of the greatest empire that the world has 
known laying aside his crown and kneeling before the tomb of 
the Fisherman.61 

Hence Augustine bases his claim to make use of the secular 
power against the Donatists, not on the right of the state to inter- 
vene in religious matters, but on the right of the Church to make 
use of the powers of this world which God has subdued to Christ 
according to His prophecy: "All the kings of the earth shall adore 
Him and all nations shall serve Him" — "et ideo hac Ecclesiae po- 
testate utimur, quam ei Dominus et promisit et dedit. "62 

To some — notably to Reuter and Harnack — this exaltation of 
the visible Church has seemed fundamentally inconsistent with 
the Augustinian doctrine of grace. It is indeed difficult to under- 
stand Augustine's theology if we approach it from the standpoint 
of the principles of the Reformation. But if we ignore modern de- 
velopments, and study Augustine's doctrine of grace and the 
Church from a purely Augustinian standpoint, its unity and con- 
sistency are manifest. 

St. Augustine never separates the moral from the social life. 
The dynamic force of both the individual and the society is found 

60 Ennarationes in Psalmos, LXVII, vii. "O blessed Church, once thou 
hast heard, now thou hast seen. For what the Church has heard in promises, 
she now sees manifested. For all things that were formerly prophesied, are 
now fulfilled. Lift up thine eyes and look abroad over the world. Behold now 
thine inheritance even to the ends of the earth. See now fulfilled what was 
spoken: 'All the kings of the earth shall worship Him, all nations shall do 
Him service.' " 

61 Sermo xliv, 2; Ep, ccxxxii, 3. We may observe that the same facts on 
which Eusebius rests his glorification of the Emperor are used by Augustine 
to exalt the Church. 

62 Ep. cv, 5, 6; cf. Ep. xxxv, 3. "And, therefore, we are making use of this 
power which the Lord both promised and gave to the Church." 

[324] in the will, and the object of their will determines the moral char- 

acter of their life. And as the corruption of the will by original sin 
in Adam becomes a social evil by an hereditary transmission 
through the flesh which unites fallen humanity in the common 
slavery of concupiscence, so too the restoration of the will by 
grace in Christ is a social good which is transmitted sacramentally 
by the action of the Spirit and unites regenerate humanity in a 
free spiritual society under the law of charity. The grace of Christ 
is only found in "the society of Christ." "Whence," says he, 
"should the City of God originally begin or progressively develop 
or ultimately attain its end, unless the life of the saints was a 
social one?"63 Thus the Church is actually the new humanity in 
process of formation, and its earthly history is that of the building 
of the City of God which has its completion in eternity, "Adhuc 
aedificatur templum Dei. "64 "Vos tanquam lapides vzvz coaedifi- 
camini in templum Dei. " 65 Hence, in spite of all the imperfec- 
tions of the earthly Church, it is nevertheless the most perfect 
society that this world can know. Indeed, it is the only true soc- 
ety, because it is the only society which has its source in a spiritual 
will. The kingdoms of the earth seek after the goods of the earth; 
the Church, and the Church alone, seeks spiritual goods and a 
peace which is eternal. 

Such a doctrine may seem to leave little room for the claims of 
the state. In fact, it is difficult to deny that the state does occupy 
a very subordinate position in St. Augustine's view. At its worst it 
is a hostile power, the incarnation of injustice and self-will. At its 
best, it is a perfectly legitimate and necessary society, but one 
which is limited to temporary and partial ends, and it is bound to 
subordinate itself to the greater and more universal spiritual so- 
ciety in which even its own members find their real citizenship. In 
fact, the state bears much the same relation to the Church that a 
Friendly Society or a guild bears to the state: it fulfils a useful 
function and has a right to the loyalty of its members, but it can 
never claim to be the equal of the larger society or to act as a sub- 
stitute for it. 

63 De Civitate Dei, XIX, v. 

64 Sermo clxiii, 3. 

65 Ibid., clvi, 12, 13. 

[325] It is on the ground of these conceptions that St. Augustine has 
so often been regarded as the originator of the mediaeval theo- 
cratic ideal, and even (by Reuter) as "the founder of Roman Ca- 
tholicism."66 And indeed it is to him more than any other individ- 
ual that we owe the characteristically Western ideal of the 
Church as a dynamic social power in contrast to the static and 
metaphysical conceptions which dominated Byzantine Christi- 
anity. But it does not necessarily follow that the influence of St. 
Augustine tended to weaken the moral authority of the state or to 
deprive ordinary social life of spiritual significance. If we consider 
the matter, not from the narrow standpoint of the juristic rela- 
tions of Church and state, but as St. Augustine himself did, from 
the point of view of the relative importance of the spiritual and 
material element in life, we shall see that his doctrine really made 
for moral freedom and responsibility. Under the Roman Empire, 
as in the sacred monarchies of the oriental type, the state is ex- 
alted as a superhuman power against which the individual per- 
sonality had no rights and the individual will had no power. In 
the East, even Christianity proved powerless to change this tra- 
dition, and alike in the Byzantine Empire and in Russia the 
Church consecrated anew the old oriental ideal of an omnipotent 
sacred state and a passive people. In the West, however, St. Au- 
gustine broke decisively with this tradition by depriving the state 
of its aura of divinity and seeking the principle of social order in 
the human will. In this way the Augustinian theory, for all its 
otherworldliness, first made possible the ideal of a social order 
resting upon the free personality and a common effort towards 
moral ends. And thus the Western ideals of freedom and progress 
and social justice owe more than we realize to the profound 
thought of the great African who was himself indifferent to secu- 
lar progress and to the transitory fortunes of the earthly state, "for 
he looked for a city that has foundations whose builder and maker 
is God." 

66 Cf. C. H. Turner in the Cambridge Mediaeval History, I, 173: "St. 
Augustine's theory of the Civitas Dei was, in germ, that of the mediaeval 
papacy, without the name of Rome." 


"On Spiritual Intuition in Christian Philosophy," from Enquiries into Religion and 
Culture (1933), published in The Dawson Newsletter, Winter 1994. 

The problem of spiritual intuition and its reconciliation with the natural conditions 
of human knowledge lies at the root of philosophic thought, and all the great 
metaphysical systems since the time of Plato have attempted to find a definitive 
solution. The subject is no less important for the theologian, since it enters so 
largely into the question of the nature of religious knowledge and the limits of 
religious experience. The Orthodox Christian is, however, debarred from the two 
extreme philosophic solutions of pure idealism and radical empiricism, since the 
one leaves no place for faith and supernatural revelations, and the other cuts off the 
human mind entirely from all relation to spiritual reality. Yet even so there remains 
a vast range of possible solutions which have been advocated by Catholic thinkers 
from the empiricism of the medieval nominalists to the ontologism of Malebranche 
and Rosmini. Leaving aside the more eccentric and unrepresentative thinkers, we 
can distinguish two main currents in Catholic philosophy. On the one hand, there is 
the Platonic tradition that is represented by the Greek Fathers, and, above all, by 
St. Augustine and his medieval followers such as St. Bonaventure; on the other, the 
Aristotelian tradition which found classical expression on the philosophy of St. 
Thomas Aquinas. But it is important not to exaggerate the divergences between the 
two schools. Both of them seek to find a via media between the two extreme 
solutions. St. Bonaventure is not a pure Platonist, nor St. Thomas a pure 
Aristotelian. The former rejects the doctrine of innate ideas, while the latter finds 
the source of intelligibility in the divine ideas, and regards the human mind as 
receiving its light from the divine intelligence. [1] Hence although Thomism insists 
on the derivation of our ideas from sensible experience, it is far from denying the 
existence of spiritual intuition. 

Human Intelligence Is Intuitive By Nature 

On this point I will quote the words of a French Dominican, Pere Joret: "Let us not 
forget," he writes, "that the human intelligence, also, is intuitive by nature and 
predisposition. No doubt, as it is united substantially with matter, it cannot 
thenceforth know except by proceeding from sensible realities and by means of 
images. But, apart from this, our intelligence is intuitive. Its first act at the dawn of 
its life, at its awakening, is an intuition, the intuition of being, or, more concretely, 
of x a thing which is,' and, at the same time, as though it already unconsciously 

carried them in itself, there suddenly appear with an ineluctable certainty the first 
principles" of identity, contradiction, causality, and the like. It is from our intuition 
of first principles that all our knowledge proceeds. St. Thomas says: "As the 
enquiry of reason starts from a simple intuition of the intelligence, so also it ends 
in the certainty of intelligence, when the conclusions that have been discovered are 
brought back to the principles from which they derive their certitude." Pere Joret 
insist on the importance of the intuitive faculty as the natural foundation of 
religious experience. It is not itself mystical, but it is the essential natural 
preparation and prerequisite for mysticism. The failure to recognise this, which has 
been so common among theologians during the last two centuries, has, he says, 
been deplorable not only in its effects on the study of mysticism, but in its practical 
consequences for the spiritual life. [2] 

It is easy to understand the reasons for this attitude of hesitation and distrust with 
regard to intuitive knowledge. If the intuition of pure being is interpreted in an 
excessively realist sense, we are led not merely to ontologism, but to pantheism — 
to the identification of that being which is common to everything which exists with 
the Transcendent and Absolute Being which is God. And the danger has led to the 
opposite error of minimising the reality of the object of our intuition, and reducing 
it to a mere logical abstraction. 

Here again it is necessary to follow the middle way. The being which is the object 
of our knowledge is neither wholly real nor purely logical and conceptual. The 
intuition of pure being is a very high and immaterialised form of knowledge, but it 
is not a direct intuition of spiritual reality. It stands midway between the world of 
sensible experience and the world of spiritual reality. On the one hand it is the 
culminating point of our ordinary intellectual activity, and on the other it leads 
directly to the affirmation of the Absolute and the Transcendent. 
Hence it is always possible, as Pere Marechal shows, that the intuition of pure 
being may become the occasionor starting-point of an intuition of a higher order. 
But it is difficult to decide, in concrete cases, whether the supreme intuition of the 
Neoplatonist or the Vedantist philosopher is simply the intuition of pure being 
interpreted in an ontologist sense, or whether it is a genuine intuition of spiritual 
reality. There is no a priori reason for excluding the latter alternative; indeed, in 
some cases it seems absolutely necessary to accept it. Nevertheless, this higher 
intuition is not necessarily always the same. It is possible to distinguish several 
different types of intuition, or to find several different explanations of it. In the first 
place there is the possibility of a very high form of metaphysical intuition by which 
the mind sees clearly the absolute transcendence of spirit in relation to sensible 
things and the element of nothingness or not- being which is inherent in the world 
of sensible experience. [3] This form of intuition seems adequate to explain the 
spiritual experience which is typical of the oriental religions, e.g., the intuition of 

advaita — non-duality, which is characteristic of the Vedanta. But there are other 
cases which suggest a higher form of experience, and one which is more strictly 
comparable to the higher experiences of the Christian mystic. In such cases the 
obvious explanation is that such experience is mystical in the full sense of the 
word, since we need not deny the existence of supernatural grace wherever the 
human mind turns towards God and does what lies in its power — facienti quod in 
se est, Deus non denegat gratiam. 

But while we must admit the essentially supernatural character of all true mystical 
experience it is still possible that this higher experience may have its psychological 
roots in a rudimentary natural capacity of the soul for the intuition of God. This is 
certainly not the common theological view, but there are, nevertheless, Catholic 
theologians such as St. Bonaventure and, above all, the great medieval mystics of 
Germany and the Low Countries, who teach that the human soul possesses by its 
very nature a real but obscure knowledge of God. St. Bonaventure argues that 
Aristotle's theory of the sensible origin of all human knowledge only holds good of 
our knowledge of external reality, not of those realities which are essentially 
present to the soul itself; consequently, "the soul knows God and itself and the 
things that are in itself without the help of the exterior senses. "[4] Deus 
praesentissimus est ipsi animae et eo ipso cognoscibilis. 

The Soul In Immediate Contact With God 

The medieval mystics base their whole theory of mysticism on this doctrine of the 
knowledge of God essentially present in the human soul. Underneath the surface of 
our ordinary consciousness, the sphere of the discursive reason, there is a deeper 
psychological level, "the ground of the soul," to which sensible images and the 
activity of the discursive reason cannot penetrate. This is the domain of the 
spiritual intuition, "the summit" of the mind and the spiritual will which is 
naturally directed towards God. Here the soul is in immediate contact with God, 
who is present to it as its cause and the principle of its activity. It is, in fact, a 
mirror which has only to be cleansed and turned towards its object to reflect the 
image of God. In the words of Ruysbroeck: "In the most noble part of the soul, the 
domain of our spiritual powers, we are constituted in the form of a living and 
eternal mirror of God; we bear in it the imprint of His eternal image, and no other 
image can ever enter there." Unceasingly this mirror remains under the eyes of 

and participates thus with the image that is graven there from God's eternity. 
It is in this image that God has known us in Himself before we were created, 
and that He knows us now in time, created as we are for Himself. This image is 
found essentially and personally in all men; each man possesses it whole and 
entire, and all men together possess no more of it than does each one. In this way 

we are all one, intimately united in our eternal image, which is the image of 
God and the source in us all of our life and of our coming into existence. Our 
created essence and our life are joined to it immediately as to their eternal cause. 
Yet our created being does not become God, any more than the image of God 
becomes a creature. [5] 

God As Its Eternal Origin 

The soul in its created being incessantly receives the impress of its Eternal 
Archetype, like a flawless mirror, in which the image remains steadfast and in 
which the reflection is renewed without interruption by its ever new reception in 
new light. This essential union of our spirit with God does not exist in itself, but it 
dwells in God and it flows forth from God and it depends upon God and it returns 
to God as to its Eternal Origin. And in this wise, it has never been, nor ever shall 
be, separated from God; for this union is within us by our naked nature, and, 
were this nature to be separated from God, it would fall into pure nothingness. 
And this union is above time and space and is always and incessantly active 
according to the way of God. But our nature, forasmuch as it is indeed like unto 
God but in itself is creature, receives the impress if its Eternal Image passively. 
This is that nobleness which we possess by nature in the essential unity of our 
spirit, where it is united to God according to nature. This neither makes us 
holy, nor blessed, for all men, whether good or evil, possess it within themselves; 
but it is certainly the first cause of all holiness and all blessedness. [6] 

According to this view, every man naturally possesses an immediate contact with 
God in the deepest part of his soul; but he remains, as a rule, without the realisation 
and the enjoyment of it. 

His soul is turned outwards to the things of sense, and his will is directed to 
temporal goods. It is the work of grace to reconstitute this divine image, to bring a 
man back to his essential nature, to cleanse the mirror of his soul so that it once 
more receives the divine light. Nevertheless, even apart from grace, the divine 
image remains present in the depths of the soul, and whenever the mind withdraws 
itself from its surface activity and momentarily concentrates itself within itself, it is 
capable of an obscure consciousness of the presence of God and of its contact with 
divine reality. 

This doctrine is undoubtedly orthodox, and involves neither illuminism nor 
ontologism, still less pantheism. Nevertheless, it runs counter to the tendency to 
asceticism which has been so powerful since the Reformation, and it is also 
difficult to reconcile with the strictly Aristotelian theory of knowledge and of the 
structure of the human mind as taught by St. Thomas. Recently, however, Pere 
Picard has made a fresh survey of the problem, and has endeavored to show that St. 

Thomas himself, in his commentary on the Sentences, admits the existence of this 
obscure intuition of God, and uses it as a proof of the soul's resemblance to the 
Trinity which was so often insisted on by St. Augustine. [7] He does not, however, 
base his view in the argument from authority so much as on general theological 
considerations, as the hypothesis which is most in harmony with the teaching and 
experience of Catholic mystics. Certainly, it seems, the existence of an obscure but 
profound and continuous intuition of God provides a far more satisfactory basis for 
an explanation of the facts of religious experience, as we see them in history, than a 
theory which leaves no place for any experience of spiritual reality, except a 
merely inferential rational knowledge on the one hand and on the other a revelation 
which is entirely derived from supernatural faith and has no natural psychological 

1. St. Thomas himself insists on the fundamental agreement of the two theories. 

2. F. D. Joret, O.P., La Contemplation Mystique d'apres St. Thomas d'Aquin. Bruges, 1923, pp. 

3. M. Maritain admits the possibility of this kind of intuition, but he regards it as an anomalous 
form of experience which is neither metaphysical nor mystical. Cf. "Experience Mystique et 
Philosophie," in Revue de Philosophie, November, 1926, p. 606. 

4. St. Bonaventure, in II Sent, d. 39, q. 2. 

5. Ruysbroeck, The Mirror of Eternal Salvation, chap. VIII. 

6. Ruysbroeck, The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, Bk. II, chap. LVII (trans. C.A. 
Wynschenk Dom). 

7. Cf. "La Saisie immediate de Dieu dans les Etats Mystiques." by G. Picard, in Revue 
dAscetique et de Mystique, 1923, pp. 37-63 156-181. The subject is also discussed by Pere 
Hugueny, O.P, in his introduction to the new French translation of Tauler (Vol. I, 73-154). He 
concludes that Tauler's doctrine is based upon that of Albertus Magnus, and diverges on several 
points from that of St. Thomas. 


"The Catholic Church," taken from chapter 2 of The Making of Europe (1932). 

The influence of Christianity on the formation of the European unity is a striking 
example of the way in which the course of historical development is modified and 
determined by the intervention of new spiritual influences. History is not to be 
explained as a closed order in which each stage is the inevitable and logical result 
of that which has gone before. There is in it always a mysterious and inexplicable 
element, due not only to the influence of chance or the initiative of the individual 
genius, but also to the creative power of spiritual forces. 

Thus in the case of the ancient world we can see that the artificial material 
civilisation of the Roman Empire stood in need of some religious inspiration of a 
more profound kind than was contained in the official cults of the city state; and 
we might have guessed that this spiritual deficiency would lead to an infiltration of 
oriental religious influences, such as actually occurred during the imperial age. But 
no one could have foretold the actual appearance of Christianity and the way in 
which it would transform the life and thought of ancient civilisation. 
The religion which was destined to conquer the Roman Empire and to become 
permanently identified with the life of the West was indeed of purely oriental 
origin and had no roots in the European past or in the traditions of classical 
civilisation. But its orientalism was not that of the cosmopolitan world of religious 
syncretism in which Greek philosophy mingled with the cults and traditions of the 
ancient East, but that of a unique and highly individual national tradition which 
held itself jealously aloof from the religious influences of its oriental environment, 
no less than from all contact with the dominant Western culture. 
The Jews were the one people of the Empire who had remained obstinately faithful 
to their national traditions in spite of the attractions of the Hellenistic culture, 
which the other peoples of the Levant accepted even more eagerly than their 
descendants have received the civilisation of modern Europe. Although 
Christianity by its very nature broke with the exclusive nationalism of Judaism and 
assumed a universal mission, it also claimed the succession of Israel and based its 
appeal not on the common principles of Hellenistic thought, but on the purely 
Hebraic tradition represented by the Law and the Prophets. The primitive Church 
regarded itself as the second Israel, the heir of the Kingdom which was promised to 
the People of God; and consequently it preserved the ideal of spiritual segregation 
and the spirit of irreconcilable opposition to the Gentile world that had inspired the 
whole Jewish tradition. 

It was this sense of historic continuity and social solidarity which distinguished the 
Christian Church from the mystery religions and the other oriental cults of the 
period, and made it from the first the only real rival and alternative to the official 
religious unity of the Empire. It is true that it did not attempt to combat or to 
replace the Roman Empire as a political organism. It was a supernatural society, 
the polity of the world to come, and it recognized the rights and claims of the state 
in the present order. But, on the other hand, it could not accept the ideals of the 
Hellenistic culture or co-operate in the social life of the Empire. The idea of 
citizenship, which was the fundamental idea of the classical culture, was 
transferred by Christianity to the spiritual order. In the existing social order 
Christians were peregrini - strangers and foreigners - their true citizenship was in 
the Kingdom of God, and even in the present world their most vital social 
relationship was found in their membership of the Church, not in that of the city or 

the Empire. 

Thus the Church was, if not a state within the state, at least an ultimate and 
autonomous society. It had its own organization and hierarchy, its system of 
government and law, and its rules of membership and initiation. It appealed to all 
those who failed to find satisfaction in the existing order, the poor and the 
oppressed, the unprivileged classes, above all those who revolted against the 
spiritual emptiness and corruption of the dominant material culture, and who felt 
the need of a new spiritual order and a religious view of life. And so it became the 
focus of the forces of disaffection and opposition to the dominant culture in a far 
more fundamental sense than any movement of political or economic discontent. It 
was a protest not against material injustice but against the spiritual ideals of the 
ancient world and its whole social ethos. 

This opposition finds an inspired expression in the book of the Apocalypse, which 
was composed in the province of Asia at a time when the Church was threatened 
with persecution owing to the public enforcement of the imperial cult of Rome and 
the Emperor in the time of Domitian. The state priesthood that was organized in 
the cities of the province is described as the False Prophet that causes men to 
worship the Beast (the Roman Empire) and its image, and to receive its seal, 
without which no man might buy or sell. Rome herself, whom Virgil described as 
"like the Phrygian Mother of the Gods, crowned with towers, rejoicing in her 
divine offspring," [1] now appears as the Woman sitting upon the Beast, the mother 
of harlots and abominations, drunken with the blood of the saints and the blood of 
the martyrs of Jesus. And all the heavenly hosts and the souls of the martyrs are 
shown waiting for the coming of the day of vengeance when the power of the 
Beast shall be destroyed and Rome shall be cast down for ever, like a mill-stone 
into the sea. 

This is an impressive witness to the gathering forces of spiritual hostility and 
condemnation that were sapping the moral foundations of the Roman power. The 
Empire had alienated the strongest and most living forces in the life of the age, and 
it was this internal contradiction, far more than war or external invasion, that 
caused the downfall of ancient civilization. Before ever the barbarians had broken 
into the Empire and before the economic breakdown had taken place, the life had 
passed out of the city-state and the spirit of classical civilization was dying. The 
cities were still being built with their temples and statues and theatres as in the 
Hellenistic age, but it was a sham facade that hid the decay within. The future lay 
with the infant Church. 

Nevertheless, Christianity won the victory only after a long and bitter struggle. The 
Church grew under the shadow of the executioner's rods and axes, and every 
Christian lived in peril of physical torture and death. The thought of martyrdom 
coloured the whole outlook of early Christianity. It was not only a fear, it was also 

an ideal and a hope. For the martyr was the complete Christian. He was the 
champion and hero of the new society in its conflict with the old, and even the 
Christians who had failed in the moment of trial - the lapsi - looked on the martyrs 
as their saviours and protectors. We have only to read the epistles of St. Cyprian or 
the Testimonia which he compiled as a manual for the "milites Christi," or the 
treatise de Laude Martyrum which goes under his name, to realize the passionate 
exaltation which the ideal of martyrdom produced in the Christian mind. It attains 
almost lyrical expression in the following passage of St. Cyprian's epistle to 
Nemesianus, which is deservedly famous: "O feet blessedly bound, which are 
loosed not by the smith but by the Lord! O feet blessedly bound, which are guided 
to paradise in the way of salvation! O feet bound for the present time in the world 
that they may be always free with the Lord! O feet lingering for a while among the 
fetters and crossbars but to run quickly to Christ on a glorious road! Let cruelty, 
envious or malignant, hold you here in its bonds and chains as long as it will, from 
this earth and from these sufferings you shall speedily come to the Kingdom of 
Heaven. The body is not cherished in the mines with couch and cushions, but it is 
cherished with the refreshment and solace of Christ. The frame wearied with 
labours lies prostrate on the ground, but it is no penalty to lie down with Christ. 
Your limbs unbathed are foul and disfigured with filth; but within they are 
spiritually cleansed, though the flesh is defiled. There the bread is scarce, but man 
liveth not by bread alone but by the Word of God. Shivering, you want clothing; 
but he who puts on Christ is abundantly clothed and adorned." [2] This is not the 
pious rhetoric of a fashionable preacher; it is the message of a confessor, who was 
himself soon to suffer death for the faith, to his fellow bishops and clergy and "the 
rest of the brethren in the mines, martyrs of God." 

In an age when the individual was becoming the passive instrument of an 
omnipotent and universal state it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of such 
an ideal, which was the ultimate stronghold of spiritual freedom. More than any 
other factor it secured the ultimate triumph of the Church, for it rendered plain to 
all the fact that Christianity was the one remaining power in the world which could 
not be absorbed in the gigantic mechanism of the new servile state. 
And while the Church was involved in this life-and-death struggle with the 
imperial state and its Hellenistic culture, it also had to carry on a difficult and 
obscure warfare with the growing forces of oriental religion. Under the veneer of 
cosmopolitan Hellenistic civilisation, the religious traditions of the ancient East 
were still alive and were gradually permeating the thought of the age. The mystery 
religions of Asia Minor spread westwards in the same way as Christianity itself, 
and the religion of Mithras accompanied the Roman armies to the Danube and the 
Rhine and the British frontier. The Egyptian worship of Isis and the Syrian cults of 
Adonis and Atargatis, Hadad of Baalbek, and the Sun-God of Emesa, followed the 

rising tide of Syrian trade and migration to the West, while in the oriental 
underworld new religions, like Manichaeanism, were coming into existence, and 
the immemorial traditions of Babylonian astral theology were appearing in new 
forms. [3] 

But the most characteristic product of this movement of oriental syncretism was 
the Gnostic theosophy, which was an ever-present danger to the Christian Church 
during the second and third centuries. It was based on the fundamental dualism of 
spirit and matter and the association of the material world with the evil principle, a 
dualism which derived more, perhaps, from Greek and Anatolian influences than 
from Persia, since we find it already fully developed in the Orphic mythology and 
in the philosophy of Empedocles. But this central idea was enveloped in a dense 
growth of magic and theosophical speculation which was undoubtedly derived 
from Babylonian and oriental sources. 

This strange oriental mysticism possessed an extraordinary attraction for the mind 
of a society which, no less than that of India six centuries before, was inspired with 
a profound sense of disillusionment and the thirst for deliverance. Consequently, it 
was not merely an exterior danger to Christianity; it threatened to absorb it 
altogether, by transforming the historical figure of Jesus into a member of the 
hierarchy of divine Aeons, and by substituting the ideal of the deliverance of the 
soul from the contamination of the material world for the Christian ideals of the 
redemption of the body and the realisation of the Kingdom of God as a social and 
historical reality. And its influence was felt not only directly in the great Christian- 
Gnostic systems of Valentinus and Basilides, but also indirectly through a 
multitude of minor oriental heresies that form an unbroken series from Simon 
Magus in the apostolic age down to the Paulicians of the Byzantine period. In the 
second century this movement had grown so strong that it captured three of the 
most distinguished representatives of oriental Christianity, Marcion in Asia Minor, 
and Tatian and Bardesanes, who were the founders of the new Aramaic literature, 
in Syria. 

If Christianity had been merely one among the oriental sects and mystery religions 
of the Roman Empire it must inevitably have been drawn into this oriental 
syncretism. It survived because it possessed a system of ecclesiastical organization 
and a principle of social authority that distinguished it from all the other religious 
bodies of the age. From the first, as we have seen, the Church regarded itself as the 
New Israel, "an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart." [4] 
This holy society was a theocracy inspired and governed by the Holy Spirit, and its 
rulers, the apostles, were the representatives not of the community but of the 
Christ, who had chosen them and transmitted to them His divine authority. This 
conception of a divine apostolic authority remained as the foundation of 
ecclesiastical order in the post-apostolic period. The "overseers" and elders, who 

were the rulers of the local churches, were regarded as the successors of the 
apostles, and the churches that were of direct apostolic origin enjoyed a peculiar 
prestige and authority among the rest. 

This was the case above all with the Roman Church, for, as Peter had possessed a 
unique position among the Twelve, so the Roman Church, which traced its origins 
to St. Peter, possessed an exceptional position among the churches. Even in the 
first century, almost before the close of the apostolic age, we see an instance of this 
in the authoritative intervention of Rome in the affairs of the Church of Corinth. 
The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians (c. A.D. 96) gives the clearest 
possible expression to the ideal of hierarchic order which was the principle of the 
new society. [5] The author argues that order is the law of the universe. And as it is 
the principle of external nature so, too, is it the principle of the Christian society. 
The faithful must preserve the same discipline and subordination of rank that 
marked the Roman army. As Christ is from God, so the apostles are from Christ, 
and the apostles, in turn, "appointed their first converts, testing them by the spirit, 
to be the bishops and deacons of the future believers. And, knowing there would be 
strife for the title of bishop, they afterwards added the codicil that if they should 
fall asleep other approved men should succeed to their ministry." Therefore it is 
essential that the Church of Corinth should put aside strife and envy and submit to 
the lawfully appointed presbyters, who represent the apostolic principle of divine 
authority. [6] 

The doctrine of St. Clement is characteristically Roman in its insistence on social 
order and moral discipline, but it has much in common with the teaching of the 
Pastoral Epistles, and there can be no doubt that it represents the traditional spirit 
of the primitive Church. It was this spirit that saved Christianity from sinking in 
the morass of oriental syncretism. 

In his polemic against the Gnostics in the following century St. Irenaeus appeals 
again and again to the social authority of the apostolic tradition against the wild 
speculations of Eastern theosophy. "The true Gnosis is the teaching of the apostles 
and the primitive constitution of the Church throughout the world." And with him 
also it is the Roman Church that is the centre of unity and the guarantee of 
orthodox belief. [7] 

In this way the primitive Church survived both the perils of heresy and schism and 
the persecution of the imperial power and organised itself as a universal 
hierarchical society over against the pagan world-state. Thence it was but a step to 
the conquest of the Empire itself, and to its establishment as the official religion of 
the reorganised Constantinian state. Whether Constantine himself was moved by 
considerations of policy in his attitude to Christianity is a debatable question. [8] 
No doubt he was sincere in the conviction he expresses in his letter to the 
provincials: that he had been raised up by the Divinity from the far west of Britain 

to destroy the enemies of Christianity, who would otherwise have ruined the 
Republic; and this belief may well have been reinforced by a conviction that the 
order and universality of the Christian Church predestined it to be the spiritual ally 
and complement of the universal Empire. In any case, this was the light in which 
the official Christian panegyrist of Constantine, Eusebius of Caesarea, interpreted 
the course of events. "One God," he writes, "was proclaimed to all mankind; and at 
the same time one universal power, the Roman Empire, arose and flourished. The 
enduring and implacable hatred of nation for nation was now removed; and as the 
knowledge of one God and one way of religion and salvation, even the doctrine of 
Christ, was made known to all mankind; so at the selfsame period, the entire 
dominion of the Roman Empire being vested in a single sovereign, profound peace 
reigned throughout the world. And thus, by the express appointment of the same 
God, two roots of blessing, the Roman Empire and the doctrine of Christian piety, 
sprang up together for the benefit of mankind." [9] 

In fact the official recognition of the Church and its association with the Roman 
state became the determining factor in the development of a new social order. The 
Church received its liberty and in return it brought to the Empire its resources of 
spiritual and social vitality. Under the later Empire the Church came more and 
more to take the place of the old civic organisation as the organ of popular 
consciousness. It was not itself the cause of the downfall of the city state, which 
was perishing from its own weakness, but it provided a substitute through which 
the life of the people could find new modes of expression. The civic institutions 
which had been the basis of ancient society had become empty forms; in fact, 
political rights had become transformed into fiscal obligations. The citizenship of 
the future lay in the membership of the Church. In the Church the ordinary man 
found material and economic assistance and spiritual liberty. The opportunities for 
spontaneous social activity and free co-operation which were denied by the 
bureaucratic despotism of the state continued to exist in the spiritual society of the 
Church, and consequently the best of the thought and practical ability of the age 
was devoted to its service. 

Thus in every city of the later Empire, side by side with the old citizen body, we 
find the new people of the Christian Church, the "plebs Christi," and as the former 
lost its social privileges and its political rights, the latter gradually came to take its 
place. In the same way the power and prestige of the clergy - the Christian ordo - 
increased as those of the civil ordo - the municipal magistracy - declined, until the 
bishop became the most important figure in the life of the city and the 
representative of the whole community. The office of the bishop was indeed the 
vital institution of the new epoch. He wielded almost unlimited power in his 
diocese, he was surrounded by an aura of supernatural prestige, and yet, at the 
same time, his was an essentially popular authority, since it sprang from the free 

choice of the people. Moreover, in addition to his religious authority and his 
prestige as a representative of the people, he possessed recognized powers of 
jurisdiction not only over his clergy and the property of the Church, but as a judge 
and arbitrator in all cases in which his decision was invoked, even though the case 
had already been brought before a secular court. Consequently, the episcopate was 
the one power in the later Empire capable of counter-balancing and resisting the 
all-pervading tyranny of the imperial bureaucracy. Even the most arrogant official 
feared to touch a bishop, and there are numerous instances of episcopal 
intervention not only on behalf of the rights of individuals, but also of those of 
cities and provinces. 

So, too, the Church came to the economic help of the people in the growing 
material distress and impoverishment of the later Empire. Its vast endowments 
were at that time literally "the patrimony of the poor," and in great cities like Rome 
and Alexandria the Church by degrees made itself responsible for the feeding of 
the poor as well as for the maintenance of hospitals and orphanages. 
St. Ambrose declared that it was a shameful thing to have gold vessels on the altar 
when there were captives to be ransomed, and at a later period when Italy was 
devastated by famine and barbarian invasion St. Gregory is said to have taken his 
responsibilities so seriously that when a single poor man was found dead of hunger 
in Rome, he abstained from saying Mass as though he were guilty of his death. 
This social activity explains the popularity of the Church among the masses of the 
people and the personal influence of the bishops, but it also involved new problems 
in the relation of the Church to secular society. The Church had become so 
indispensable to the welfare of society, and so closely united with the existing 
social order, that there was a danger that it would become an integral part of the 
imperial state. The germs of this development are already to be seen in Origen's 
theory of the Church. [10] He draws an elaborate parallel between the Christian 
society and that of the Empire. He compares the local church to the body of 
citizens in each city - the Ecclesia - and as the latter had its Boule or Curia and its 
magistrates or archons, so, too, the Christian Church has its ordo or clergy, and its 
ruler, the bishop. The whole assembly of churches, "the whole body of the 
synagogues of the Church," corresponds to the unity of the cities in the Empire. 
Thus the Church is, as it were, "the cosmos of the cosmos," and he even goes so far 
as to envisage the conversion of the Empire to Christianity and the unification of 
the two societies in one universal "city of God." 

In the fourth century the ecclesiastical organization had become closely modeled 
on that of the Empire. Not only did each city have its bishop, the limits of whose 
see corresponded with those of the city territory, but the civil province was also an 
ecclesiastical province under a metropolitan who resided in the provincial capital. 
By the end of the fourth century an effort was even being made to create an 

ecclesiastical unity or "exarchate" corresponding to the civil diocese or group of 
provinces that was governed by an imperial vicar. 

The logical culmination of this development was to make the capital of the Empire 
also the center of the Church. The solution indeed might seem to have been already 
provided by the traditional primacy of the Church of Rome, the imperial city. But 
in the fourth century Rome no longer occupied the same unique position that it had 
held in the previous centuries. The center of the Mediterranean world had shifted 
back once more to the Hellenistic east. Since the reorganization of the Empire by 
Diocletian, the emperors no longer resided at Rome, and the importance of the old 
capital rapidly declined, especially after the foundation of the new capital at 
Constantinople in 330. 

These changes also affected the position of the Roman Church. Under the early 
Empire Rome had been an international city and Greek was the language of the 
Roman Church. But from the third century A.D., Rome and the Roman Church 
gradually became Latinised, [11] and East and West tended to drift apart. The 
ecclesiastical aspect of this centrifugal tendency is already visible in the middle of 
the third century, in the opposition of the Eastern bishops, under St. Firmilian, to 
Pope Stephen on the question of the re-baptism of heretics, and the tendency 
became still more marked in the following century. From the time of Constantine 
onwards the Eastern churches began to look to Constantinople rather than to Rome 
for guidance, and it was the imperial court rather than the Apostolic See that was 
the center of unity. This was already evident in the later years of Constantine 
himself, and his successor, Constantius II, went so far as to anticipate the 
Caesaropapism of later Byzantine history and to transform the Church of the 
Eastern provinces into a State Church closely dependent on the imperial 

The essential organ of the ecclesiastical policy of Constantine and his successors 
was the General Council, an institution which was not, like the earlier provincial 
councils, of purely ecclesiastical origin, but owed its existence to the imperial 
power. [12] The right of convocation was vested in the emperor, and it was he who 
decided what was to be discussed and ratified the decisions by his imperial 
sanction. But, though in the hands of a crowned theologian like Constantius or 
Justinian, the General Council was an instrument of the imperial control of the 
Church rather than an organ of ecclesiastical self-government, it was also a 
representative institution, and the great ecumenical councils were the first 
representative deliberative assemblies that had ever existed. [13] Moreover, the 
Eastern churches in the fourth century were far from being the passive servants of 
an Erastian government. They were full of independent spiritual and intellectual 
life. If the Western Church takes a second place in the ecclesiastical history of the 
time, it is largely because the great religious forces of the age had their center in 

the East. 

It was in the East that there arose the monastic movement which created the 
dominant religious ideals of the new age, and though it spread rapidly from one 
end of the Empire to the other, it continued to derive its inspiration from the 
hermits and ascetics of the Egyptian desert. 

It was the East also that created the new liturgical poetry and the cycle of the 
liturgical year which was to become the common possession of the Christian 
Church. [14] 

Above all, it was the East that united the Christian tradition with that of Greek 
philosophical culture and embodied Christian doctrine in a scientific theological 
system. The foundations of this development had already been laid in the third 
century, above all by Origen and the catechetical school of Alexandria, and the 
work was carried on in the following century by Eusebius in Palestine, by 
Athanasius at Alexandria, and finally, by the three great Cappadocian Greeks, St. 
Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Gregory of Nyssa. Thanks to their work 
the Church was able to formulate a profound and exact intellectual statement of 
Christian doctrine and to avoid the danger of an unintelligent traditionalism on the 
one hand, and on the other, that of a superficial rationalisation of Christianity, such 
as we find in Arianism. 

No doubt this process of theological development was accompanied by violent 
controversies and the intellectualism of Greek theology often degenerated into 
metaphysical hair-splitting. There is some justification for Duchesne's remark that 
the Eastern Church would have done well to think less of speculative questions 
about the Divine Nature and more about the duty of unity; [15] but the 
development of scientific theology was not the only or even the principal cause of 
heresy and schism, and without that development the whole intellectual life of 
Christendom would have been immeasurably poorer. 

In order to realise what the West owed to the East, we have only to measure the 
gap that divides St. Augustine from St. Cyprian. Both of them were Westerners, 
and Africans, both of them owed much to the older Latin tradition of Tertullian. 
But, while Cyprian never indulges in philosophical speculations and is not even a 
theologian in the scientific sense of the word, Augustine yields nothing to the 
greatest of the Greek Fathers in philosophical profundity. He is, as Harnack puts it, 
an Origen and an Athanasius in one, and something more as well. 
This vast progress is not to be explained as a spontaneous development of Western 
Christianity, even though we admit the supreme personal genius of Augustine 
himself. The theological development of the West in the century that followed 
Tertullian was in fact a retrograde one, and writers such as Arnobius and 
Commodian possess no theology, but only a millennarist traditionalism. [16] 
The change came with the introduction into the West of Greek theological science 

during the second half of the fourth century. The agents of this transformation were 
the Latin Fathers, Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose of Milan, Jerome, Rufinus of 
Aquileia, and the converted rhetorician, Victorinus; while at the same time St. 
Martin of Tours and Cassian of Marseilles, both of them natives of the Danube 
provinces, brought to the West the new ideals of oriental asceticism and 
monasticism. [17] 

The Latin Fathers, apart from St. Augustine, were not profound metaphysicians nor 
even original thinkers. In theological matters they were the pupils of the Greeks, 
and their literary activity was mainly devoted to making the intellectual riches that 
had been accumulated by the Christian East available in the Latin world. Yet at the 
same time they were the heirs of the Western tradition, and they combined with 
their newly acquired knowledge the moral strength and the sense of discipline that 
had always characterised the Latin Church. Their interest in theological problems 
was always subordinated to their loyalty to tradition and to the cause of Catholic 
unity. In the Western provinces the Christians were still but a small minority of the 
population, and consequently the Church was less exposed to internal dissensions 
and still preserved the spiritual independence that it had possessed in pre- 
Constantinian times. 

This is very evident in the case of the Arian controversy, for Arianism appeared in 
the West as not so much an internal danger to Christian orthodoxy as an attack 
from without on the spiritual liberty of the Church. The Western attitude is 
admirably expressed in the remonstrance which Hosius, the great bishop of 
Cordova, addressed to the Emperor Constantius II: "I have been a confessor," he 
wrote, "in the persecution that your grandfather Maximian raised against the 
Church. If you wish to renew it you will find me ready to suffer all rather than to 
betray the truth and to shed innocent blood ... Remember that you are a mortal 
man. Fear the day of judgment ... Do not interfere in ecclesiastical affairs, or 
dictate anything about them to us, but rather learn from us what you ought to 
believe concerning them. God has given to you the government of the Empire and 
to us that of the Church. Whosoever dares to impugn your authority, sets himself 
against the order of God. Take care lest you likewise render yourself guilty of a 
great crime by usurping the authority of the Church. We are commanded to give 
unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. It is 
not lawful for us to arrogate to ourselves the imperial authority. You also have no 
power in the ministry of holy things." [18] 

St. Hilary of Poitiers goes still further and attacks the emperor with all the 
resources of his classical style. "We are fighting today," he writes, "against a wily 
persecutor, an insinuating enemy, against Constantius the antichrist, who does not 
scourge the back, but tickles the belly, who does not condemn to life but enriches 
to death, who instead of thrusting men into the liberty of prison, honours them in 

the slavery of the palace . . . who does not cut off the head with the sword, but 
slays the soul with gold ..." [19] 

The language of Lucifer of Cagliari is still more uncompromising, and the very 
titles of his pamphlets, "On royal apostates," "On not sparing the persons of those 
who offend against God," or "On the duty of martyrdom," breathe a spirit of 
hostility and defiance against the secular powers that recalls that of Tertullian. 
Thus the Western Church was far from being dependent upon the state; the danger 
was rather that it might have become permanently alienated from the Empire and 
from the traditions of ancient civilisation, like the Donatist Church in Africa, or the 
Church in Egypt after the fifth century. 

This danger was averted, on the one hand, by the return of the Western Empire to 
orthodoxy under the house of Valentinian, and on the other, by the influence of St. 
Ambrose and the new development of Christian culture. In St. Ambrose, above all, 
the Western Church found a leader who could maintain the rights of the Church no 
less vigorously than St. Hilary, but who was at the same time a loyal friend of the 
emperors and a devoted servant of the Empire. 

Ambrose was indeed a Roman of the Romans, born and trained in the traditions of 
the imperial civil service, and he brought to the service of the Church the public 
spirit and the devotion to duty of a Roman magistrate. His devotion to Christianity 
did nothing to weaken his loyalty to Rome, for he believed that the true faith would 
be a source of new strength to the Empire and that as the Church triumphed over 
paganism so the Christian Empire would triumph over the barbarians. 
"Go forth," he wrote to Gratian, on the eve of his expedition against the Goths, "go 
forth under the shield of faith and girt with the sword of the Spirit; go forth to the 
victory promised of old time and foretold in the oracles of God." . . . "No military 
eagles, no flight of birds here lead the van of our army, but Thy Name, Lord Jesus, 
and Thy worship. This is no land of unbelievers, but the land whose custom it is to 
send forth confessors - Italy; Italy oft times tempted but never drawn away; Italy 
whom your Majesty has long defended and now again rescued from the barbarian." 

Thus Ambrose is the first exponent in the West of the ideal of a Christian state, as 
was Eusebius of Caesarea in the East. But he differs utterly from Eusebius in his 
conception of the duties of the Christian prince and the relations between the 
Church and the state. Eusebius' attitude to Constantine is already that of a 
Byzantine court bishop, and he surrounds the figure of the emperor with a nimbus 
of supernatural authority such as had always characterized the theocratic 
monarchies of the ancient East. But Ambrose belongs to a different tradition. He 
stands midway between the old classical ideal of civic responsibility and the 
mediaeval ideal of the supremacy of the spiritual power. He has something of the 
Roman magistrate and something of the mediaeval pontiff. In his eyes the law of 

the Church - the jus sacerdotale - could only be administered by the magistrates of 
the Church - the bishops, and even the emperor himself was subject to their 
authority. "The Emperor," he wrote, "is within the Church, not over it"; and "in 
matters of faith bishops are wont to be the judges of Christian emperors, not 
emperors of bishops." [21] And accordingly, while Eusebius addresses Constantine 
as a sacred being exalted above human judgment, [22] Ambrose did not hesitate to 
rebuke the great Theodosius and to call him to account for his acts of injustice. 
"Thou art a man, temptation has come upon thee. Conquer it. For sin is not 
removed save by tears and repentance." [23] 

The authority of St. Ambrose had a far-reaching influence on the ideals of the 
Western Church, for it helped to strengthen the alliance between the Church and 
the Empire, while at the same time it preserved the traditional Western conception 
of authority in the Church. In the East the Church was continually forced to turn to 
the Emperor and to the councils which he convoked in order to preserve its unity; 
in the West the conciliar system never attained such importance, and it was to the 
Roman See that the Church looked as the center of unity and ecclesiastical order. 
The attempts to define the jurisdiction of the Papacy by the Council of Sardica in 
343, and by the Emperor Gratian in 378, are of minor importance in comparison 
with the traditional belief in the apostolic prerogative of the Roman See and in the 
"Romana fides" as the norm of Catholic orthodoxy. In the fifth century this 
development was completed by St. Leo, who united the conviction of St. Ambrose 
in the providential mission of the Roman Empire with the traditional doctrine of 
the primacy of the Apostolic See; while, earlier in the same century, St. Augustine 
had completed the Western theological development and endowed the Church with 
a system of thought which was to form the intellectual capital of Western 
Christendom for more than a thousand years. 

And thus, when the Western Empire fell before the barbarians, the Church was not 
involved in its disaster. It was an autonomous order which possessed its own 
principle of unity and its own organs of social authority. It was able at once to 
become the heir and representative of the old Roman culture and the teacher and 
guide of the new barbarian peoples. In the East it was not so. The Byzantine 
Church became so closely bound up with the Byzantine Empire that it formed a 
single social organism which could not be divided without being destroyed. 
Anything that threatened the unity of the Empire also endangered the unity of the 
Church. And so it was that while the Eastern Empire resisted the attacks of the 
barbarians, the Eastern Church lost its unity owing to the reaction of the oriental 
nationalities to the ecclesiastical centralization of the Byzantine state. Among the 
oriental peoples, nationality took on a purely religious form and the state was 
ultimately swallowed up by the Church. 

But although from the fifth century the two halves of the Empire drifted apart in 

religion as well as in politics, the division was not complete. The Papacy still 
preserved a certain primacy in the East, for as Harnack says, "even in the eyes of 
the Orientals there attached to the Roman Bishop a special something, which was 
wanting to all the rest, a nimbus which conferred upon him a special authority." 
[24] And similarly, the Western Church still regarded itself as in a sense the Church 
of the Empire, and continued to recognise the ecumenical character of the General 
Councils which were convoked by the Byzantine Emperor. 

These conditions characterised the whole period with which we are about to deal. 
It was not until the eleventh century that the religious bond which united East and 
West was finally destroyed and Western Christendom emerged as an independent 
unity, separated alike in culture and religion from the rest of the old Roman world. 


1. Qualis Berecyntia mater Invenitur curru Phrygias turrita per urbes Laeta deum 
partu, centum complexa nepotes Omnis caelicolas, omnis supera alta tenentis. 
Aeneid, VI, 785. 

2. St. Cyprian, Ep. LXXVI, trans. R. E. Wallis. 

3. In recent years particular attention has been devoted to the Mandaeans or 
"Christians of St. John," of Southern Babylonia, the only one of these sects that has 
survived to modern times. Lidzbarski and Reitzenstein have attempted to prove 
that this sect was originally connected with the Essenes and with the disciples of 
John the Baptist, and consequently that the Mandaean writings have an important 
bearing on the question of Christian origins. S. A. Pallis, however, has shown (in 
his Mandaean Studies, 1919) that the parallels with Judaism are superficial and of 
relatively recent origin and that Mandaeanism is essentially a Gnostic sect which 
subsequently, in Sassanian times, came under the influence of Zoroastrian ideas. 
He also rejects the earlier theory of Brandt that the fundamental stratum in 
Mandaean beliefs is based on ancient Babylonian religion. 

4. I Peter ii. 9. 

5. So clear is this, that Sohm went so far as to regard this epistle as the starting- 
point of the juridical conception of the Church, which in his view abruptly replaced 
the earlier "charismatic" view. But, as Harnack points out, the conception of a 
divine apostolic authority is as old as the Church itself and appears clearly enough 
in the decree of the Council of Jerusalem. Acts xv, 23-27. 

6. I Clement, XX, XXXVII, XL-XLIV, etc. 

7. "By its (the Roman Church's) tradition and by its faith announced to men, which 
has been transmitted to us by the succession of bishops, we confound all those who 
in any way by caprice or vainglory or by blindness and perversity of will gather 
where they ought not. For to this Church, on account of its higher origin, it is 
necessary that every Church, that is, the faithful from all sides, should resort, in 

which the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved by those that are 
from all parts" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III, iii). The expression "propter 
potentiorem principalitatem" which I have translated as "higher origin" is 
somewhat disputed. It has often been translated as "more powerful headship" or as 
"pre-eminent authority" (e.g., in the Ante-Nicene Library translation, Vol. I, p. 
261). I think there can be little doubt that principalitas = archaiotes and refers to 
the origins of the see, as in the passage of Cyprian, Ep. LIX, 13 - "navigare audent 
ad Petri cathedram et Ecclesiam principalem unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta est," 
where "principalem" means the original or earliest church. It is the same argument 
that Optatus and St. Augustine were to use against the Donatists, as in the lines: 
Numerate sacerdotes vel ab ipsa Petri sede, et in ordine illo patrum quis cui 
successit videte: ipsa est petra quam non vincunt superbae infernorum portae. 
Psalmus c. partem Donat. 18. 

8. The question has recently been discussed by Mr. Norman Baynes in the Raleigh 
Lecture for 1929. He maintains that the dominant motive in Constantine's career 
was his "conviction of a personal mission entrusted to him by the Christian God," 
that he "definitely identified himself with Christianity, with the Christian Church 
and the Christian creed"; and that he believed the prosperity of the Empire to be 
bound up with the unity of the Catholic Church. Thus the Byzantine ideal of a 
Roman Empire founded on the orthodox faith and united with the orthodox Church 
has its source in the vision of Constantine. Constantine the Great and the Christian 
Church by N. H. Baynes; Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. XV. (with very 
full bibliographical notes on the subject). 

9. Oration in Praise of Constantine, XVI. 

10. Contra Celsum, III, 29, 30. Cf. Battifol, VEglise Naissante, ch. vii. 

11. St. Hippolytus is the last Roman Christian to write in Greek. Novatian in the 
middle of the third century already writes Latin, although Greek probably 
remained the liturgical language until the following century. 

12. Harnack writes: "In all cases it was a political institution, invented by the 
greatest of politicians, a two-edged sword which protected the endangered unity of 
the Church at the price of its independence." (History of Dogma, Eng. trans., Ill, 

13. Cf. H. Gelzer, Die Konzilien als Reichsparlamente in Ausgewahlte Kleine 
Schriften (1907). He argues that the Councils followed the precedent of the ancient 
Senate in their arrangement and forms of procedure. 

14. Dom Cabrol has shown how the liturgical cycle was evolved from the local 
ceremonies connected with the Holy places at Jerusalem in the fourth century. The 
ceremonies of Holy Week at Rome were in origin an imitation of this local cycle, 
and the group of churches round the Lateran at Rome, St. Maria Maggiore, Sta. 
Croce in Gerusalemme, St. Anastasia, etc., in which these ceremonies were 

performed, reproduced the sanctuaries of the holy places at Jerusalem. Cabrol, Les 
Origines Liturgiques, Conf. VIII. 

15. Que Von eut ete bien inspire, si au lieu de tant philosopher sur la terminologie, 
d'opposer I'union physique a I'union hypostatique, les deux natures qui n'en font 
qu'une a I'unique hypostase qui regit les deux natures, on se fut un peu plus 
preoccupe de choses moins sublimes et bien autrement vitales. On alambiquait 
I'unite du Christ, un mystere; on sacrifiait I'unite de I'Eglise, un devoir." Duchesne, 
Eglises Separees, p. 57. 

16. The backwardness and isolation of the West in theological matters is shown by 
the fact that St. Hilary himself admits that he had never heard of the Nicene faith 
until the time of his exile in A.D. 356. (De Synodis, 91.) 

17. We may also note the introduction of liturgical poetry into the West by Hilary 
and Ambrose. 

18. The letter is given in Greek by Athanasius, History of the Arians, 44. I follow 
Tillemont's French version in Memoires, Tom. VII, 313. 

19. Contra Constantium imperatorem, 5. 

20. De Fide, II, xvi. 136, 142 (trans. H. de Romestin). 

21. Ambrose, Ep. XXIV, 4, 5. 

22. Cf. the whole of his Oration in Praise of Constantine. E.g., he writes, "Let me 
lay before thee, victorious and mighty Constantine, some of the mysteries of His 
sacred truth: not as presuming to instruct thee who art thyself taught of God; nor to 
disclose to thee those secret wonders which He Himself not through the agency or 
work of man, but through our common Saviour and the frequent light of His 
Divine presence has long since revealed and unfolded to thy view; but in the hope 
of leading the unlearned to the light of truth and displaying before those who know 
them not, the causes and motives of thy pious deeds." Cap. XI. 

23. Ambrose, Ep. LI, 11. 

24. History of Dogma (Eng. trans.), Ill, 226. He goes on to say, "Yet this nimbus 
was not sufficiently bright to bestow upon its possessor an unimpeachable 
authority; it was rather so nebulous that it was possible to disregard it without 
running counter to the spirit of the universal Church." The Greek ecclesiastical 
historians, Socrates and Sozomen, both of them laymen and lawyers, are impartial 
witnesses to the position accorded to the Roman see at Constantinople in the fifth 
century, as Harnack notes (ibid., note 2). Cf. Batiffol, Le Siege Apostolique, 411- 


"Christianity as the Soul of the West," from The Modern Dilemma (1932). 

The modern dilemma is essentially a spiritual one, and every one of its main 
aspects, moral, political and scientific, brings us back to the need of a religious 
solution. The one remaining problem that we have got to consider is where that 
religious solution is to be found. 

Must we look for some new religion to meet the new circumstances of the 
changing world, or does the Christian faith still supply the answer that we need? 
In the first place, it is obvious that it is no light matter to throw over the Christian 
tradition. It means a good deal more to us than we are apt to realise. 
As I have pointed out, it is the Christian tradition that is the most fundamental 
element in Western culture. It lies at the base not only of Western religion, but also 
of Western morals and Western social idealism. To a far greater extent than science 
or philosophy, it has determined our attitude to life and the final aims of our 
civilisation. Yet on the other hand we cannot fail to recognise that it is just this 
religious element in Western culture that is most challenged at the present day. The 
majority of men, whatever their political beliefs may be, are prepared to accept 
science and democracy and humanitarianism as essential elements in modern 
civilisation, but they are far less disposed to admit the importance of religion in 
general and of Christianity in particular. They regard Christianity as out of touch 
with modern life and inconsistent with modern knowledge. Modern life, they say, 
deals with facts, while Christianity deals with unproved and incomprehensible 
dogmas. A man can indulge in religious beliefs, so long as he treats them as a 
private luxury; but they have no bearing on social life, and society can get on very 
well without them. 

Moreover, behind this vague tendency to treat religion as a side issue in modern 
life, there exists a strong body of opinion that is actively hostile to Christianity and 
that regards the destruction of positive religion as absolutely necessary to the 
advance of modern culture. This attitude is most in evidence in Soviet Russia, 
where, for the first time in the history of the world, we see a great state, or rather a 
world empire, that officially rejects any species of religion and has adopted a 
social, and educational policy inspired by militant atheism. But this tendency is not 
confined to Russia or to the followers of communism. Both in Europe and America 
there is a strong anti- religious movement that includes many of our ablest modern 
writers and a few men of science. It seeks not only to destroy religion, but also to 
revolutionise morals and to discredit the ethical ideals which have hitherto inspired 
Western society. 

This, I think, is one of the most significant features of the present situation. Critics 

of religion in the past have, as a rule, been anxious to dissociate the religious from 
the moral issue. They were often strict moralists, like the late John Morley, who 
managed to clothe atheism in the frock coat and top hat of Victorian respectability. 
But today the solidarity of religion and morals is admitted on both sides. If Europe 
abandons Christianity, it must also abandon its moral code. And conversely the 
modern tendency to break away from traditional morality strengthens the 
intellectual revolt against religious belief. 

At first sight it seems as though the forces of change in the modern world were 
definitely hostile to religion, and that we are rapidly approaching a purely secular 
state of civilisation. But it is not so easy to get rid of religion as we might imagine. 
It is easy enough for the individual to adopt a negative attitude of critical 
scepticism. But if society as a whole abandons all positive beliefs, it is powerless 
to resist the disintegrating effects of selfishness and private interest. Every society 
rests in the last resort on the recognition of common principles and common ideals, 
and if it makes no moral or spiritual appeal to the loyalty of its members, it must 
inevitably fall to pieces. 

In the past, society found this unifying principle in its religious beliefs; in fact 
religion was the vital centre of the whole social organism. And if a state did not 
already possess a common religious basis, it attempted to create one artificially, 
like the official Caesar-worship that became the state religion of the Roman 
Empire. And so, today, if the state can no longer appeal to the old moral principles 
that belong to the Christian tradition, it will be forced to create a new official faith 
and new moral principles which will be binding on its citizens. 
Here again Russia supplies the obvious illustration. The Communist rejection of 
religion and Christian morality has not led to the abandonment of social control 
and the unrestricted freedom of opinion in matters of belief. On the contrary, it has 
involved an intensification of social control over the beliefs and the spiritual life of 
the individual citizen. In fact, what the Communists have done is not to get rid of 
religion, but merely to substitute a new and stricter Communist religion for the old 
official orthodoxy. The Communist Party is a religious sect which exists to spread 
the true faith. It has its Inquisition for the detection and punishment of heresy. It 
employs the weapon of excommunication against disloyal or unorthodox members. 
It possesses in the writings of Marx its infallible scriptures, and it reveres in Lenin, 
if not a God, at least a saviour and a prophet. 

It may be said that this is an abnormal development due to the excesses of the 
Russian temperament. But it is abnormal only in its exaggerations. The moment 
that a society claims the complete allegiance of its members, it assumes a quasi- 
religious authority. For since man is essentially spiritual, any power that claims to 
control the whole man is forced to transcend relative and particular aims and to 
enter the sphere of absolute values, which is the realm of religion. On the other 

hand, if the state consents to the limitation of its aims to the political sphere, it has 
to admit that its ideal is only a relative one and that it must accept the ultimate 
supremacy of spiritual ideals which lie outside its province. 

This is the solution that Western society has hitherto chosen, but it implies the 
existence of an independent spiritual power, whether it be a religious faith or a 
common moral ideal. If these are absent, the state is forced to claim an absolute 
and almost religious authority, though not necessarily in the same way that the 
Communist state has done. We can easily conceive a different type of secularism 
that conforms to the needs of capitalist society: indeed, we are witnessing the 
emergence of something of the kind in the United States, though it is still 
somewhat coloured by survivals from the older Protestant tradition. 
And so too in Western Europe the tendency seems all towards the development of a 
purely secular type of culture which subordinates the whole of life to practical and 
economic ends and leaves no room for any independent spiritual activity. 
Nevertheless a civilisation that fails to satisfy the needs of man's spiritual nature 
cannot be permanently successful. It produces a state of spiritual conflict and moral 
maladjustment which weakens the vitality of the whole social organism. This is 
why our modern machine-made civilisation, in spite of the material benefits that it 
has conferred, is marked by a feeling of moral unrest and social discontent which 
was absent from the old religious cultures, although the lot of the ordinary man in 
them was infinitely harder from the material point of view. 

You can give men food and leisure and amusements and good conditions of work, 
and still they will remain unsatisfied. You can deny them all these things, and they 
will not complain so long as they feel that they have something to die for. 
Even if we regard man as an animal, we must admit that he is a peculiar sort of 
animal that will sacrifice his interests to his ideals — an animal that is capable of 
martyrdom. The statesman sees this when he appeals to the ordinary man to leave 
his home and his family and to go and die painfully in a ditch for the sake of his 
country; and the ordinary man does not refuse to go. The Communist recognises 
this, when he calls on the proletarian to work harder and to eat less for the sake of 
the Five- Year Plan and the cause of world revolution. But when the soldier comes 
back from the war, and the Communist has realised his Utopia, they are apt to feel 
a certain disproportion between their sacrifices and the fruits of their achievements. 
Now it is the fundamental contradiction of materialism that it exalts the results of 
human achievement and at the same time denies the reality of the spiritual forces 
that have made this achievement possible. All the highest achievements of the 
human spirit, whether in the order of thought or action or moral being, rest on a 
spiritual absolute and become impossible in a world of purely economic or even 
purely human values. It is only in the .light of religious experience and of absolute 
spiritual principles that human nature can recognise its own greatness and realise 

its higher potentialities. 

There is a world of eternal spiritual realities in which and for which the world of 
man exists. That is the primary intuition that lies at the root of all religion, even of 
the most primitive kind. The other day I came upon a very good illustration of this, 
rather unexpectedly, in a passage in one of Edgar Wallace's novels in which he is 
describing a religious discussion between a white officer and a West African 
medicine-man. The former says "Where in the world are these gods of whom you 
are always talking?" and the savage answers, "O man, know that the Gods are not 
in the world; it is the world that is in the Gods." 

In our modern civilised world this truth is no longer obvious; it has become dim 
and obscured. Nevertheless it cannot be disregarded with impunity. The civilisation 
that denies God denies its own foundation. For the glory of man is a dim reflection 
of the glory of God, and when the latter is denied the former fades. 
Consequently the loss of the religious sense which is shown by the indifference or 
the hostility of the modern world to Christianity is one of the most serious 
weaknesses of our civilisation and involves a real danger to its spiritual vitality and 
its social stability. Man's spiritual needs are none the less strong for being 
unrecognised, and if they are denied their satisfaction through religion, they will 
find their compensation elsewhere, often in destructive and anti-social activities. 
The man who is a spiritual misfit becomes morally alienated from society, and 
whether that alienation takes the form of active hostility, as in the anarchist or the 
criminal, or merely of passive non-co-operation, as in the selfish individualist, it is 
bound to be a source of danger. The civilisation that finds no place for religion is a 
maimed culture that has lost its spiritual roots and is condemned to sterility and 
decadence. There can, I think, be little doubt that the present phase of intense 
secularisation is a temporary one, and that it will be followed by a far-reaching 
reaction. I would even go so far as to suggest that the return to religion promises to 
be one of the dominant characteristics of the coming age. We all know how history 
follows a course of alternate action and reaction, and how each century and each 
generation tends to contradict its predecessor. The Victorians reacted against the 
Georgians, and we in. turn have reacted against the Victorians. We reject their 
standards and their beliefs, just as they rejected the standards and beliefs of their 

But behind these lesser waves of change there is a deeper movement that marks the 
succession of the ages. There are times when the whole spirit of civilisation 
becomes transformed and the stream of history seems to change its course and flow 
in a new direction. One such movement occurred sixteen hundred years ago, when 
the ancient world became Christian. Another occurred in the sixteenth century with 
the coming of the Renaissance and the Reformation, which brought the mediaeval 
world to an end and inaugurated a new age. And the forces of transformation that 

are at work in the world today seem to betoken the coming of another such change 
in the character of civilisation, which is perhaps even more fundamental than that 
of the sixteenth century. 

All the characteristic movements that marked the culture of the last four centuries 
are passing away and giving place to new tendencies. We see this not only in 
politics and the material organisation of life, but also in art and literature and 
science; for example, in the tendency of modern art to abandon the naturalistic 
principles that governed its development from the Renaissance to the nineteenth 
century in favour of new canons of style that have more in common with the art of 
Byzantium and of the ancient East. 

We are not, indeed, going back to the Middle Ages, but we are going forward to a 
new age which is no less different from the last age than that was from the 
mediaeval period. 

But if this is so, may it not be that religion is one of the outworn modes of thought 
that are being abandoned and that the new age will be an age of rationalism and 
secularism and materialism? This is, as we have seen, the current belief, but then 
the current beliefs are always out of date. It is difficult to realise how much of 
current thinking belongs to the past, because it is natural for men's minds to be 
soaked in the mental atmosphere of the last generation, and it needs a considerable 
effort to see things as they are and not as other people have seen them. The artist 
and the philosopher and the scientist, each in his own way, sees life direct, but the 
majority of men see it at second-hand through the accepted ideas of their society 
and culture. And consequently, the tendencies that we regard as characteristic of 
the age are often those that are characteristic of the age that is just passing away 
rather than of that which is beginning. 

Thus in fact the tendencies that arc hostile to religion and make for secularism and 
materialism are not new tendencies. They have been at work in Europe for 
centuries. The whole modern period from the Renaissance to the nineteenth 
century was a long process of revolt in which the traditional order of life and its 
religious foundations were being undermined by criticism and doubt. It was an age 
of spiritual disintegration in which Christendom was divided into a mass of 
warring sects, and the Churches that resisted this tendency did so only by a rigid 
discipline which led to religious persecution and the denial of individual freedom. 
And this again brought religion into conflict with the spirit of the age; for it was an 
age of individualism, dominated by the Renaissance ideal of liberty of thought, the 
Reformation ideal of liberty of conscience, the individualist ideal of economic 
liberty and the romantic ideal of liberty of feeling and conduct. It was an age of 
secularism in which the state substituted itself for the Church as the ultimate 
authority in men's lives and the supreme end of social activity. And finally it was 
an age which witnessed the triumphant development of scientific materialism, 

based on a mechanistic theory of the world that seemed to leave no room for 
human freedom or spiritual reality. 

Today this process of revolution has worked itself out, so that there is hardly 
anything left to revolt against. After destroying the old order, we are beginning to 
turn round and look for some firm foundation on which we can build anew. 
Already in social life we are witnessing the passing of individualism and the 
recovery of a sense of community. In economics for example, the nineteenth- 
century ideal of unrestricted freedom and individual initiative has given place to an 
intense demand for social organisation and social control. 

Looked at from this point of view, socialism and communism are not purely 
revolutionary and negative movements. They mark the turn of the tide. Karl Marx 
was among the first to feel the insufficiency of the liberal revolutionary tradition 
and the need for a new effort of social construction. And so he built on what 
seemed to his age to be an ultimate foundation — the bed-rock of scientific 
materialism. But today we realise that the materialistic theory of the nineteenth 
century was no more final than the scientific theories that it superseded. Science, 
which has explained so much, has ended by explaining away matter itself, and has 
left us with a skeleton universe of mathematical formulae. Consequently the naive 
materialism that regarded Matter with a capital M as the one reality is no longer 
acceptable, for we have come to see that the fundamental thing in the world is not 
Matter but Form. The universe is not just a mass of solid particles of matter 
governed by blind determinism and chance. It possesses an organic structure, and 
the further we penetrate into the nature of reality the more important does this 
principle of form become. 

And so we can no longer dismiss mind and spiritual reality as unreal or less real 
than the material world, for it is just in mind and in the spiritual world that the 
element of form is most supreme. It is the mind that is the key of the universe, not 
matter. In the Beginning was the Word, and it is the creative and informing power 
of the Word that is the foundation of reality. 

And if this is true of the world of nature, it is still more true of the world of society 
and culture. We must abandon the vain attempt to disregard spiritual unity and to 
look for a basis of social construction in material and external things. The 
acceptance of spiritual reality must be the basic element in the culture of the future, 
for it is spirit that is the principle of unity and matter that is the principle of 
division. And as soon as this truth is admitted, religion will no longer appear as an 
unessential and extraneous element in culture, but as its most vital element. For 
religion is the bond that unites man to spiritual reality, and it is only in religion that 
society can find the principle of spiritual union of which it stands in need. No 
secular ideal of social progress or economic efficiency can take the place of this. It 
is only the ideal of a spiritual order which transcends the relative value of the 

economic and political world that is capable of overcoming the forces of 
disintegration and destruction that exist in modern civilisation. The faith of the 
future cannot be economic or scientific or even moral; it must be religious. 
This is just where the new artificial manmade religions, like Positivism, fail. They 
lack the one thing that is necessary, namely, religious faith. It is a complete mistake 
to think that we can bring religion up-to-date by making it conform to our wishes 
and to the dominant prejudices of the moment. If we feel that modern society is out 
of touch with science, we do not call on the scientists to change their views and to 
give us something more popular. We realise that we have got to give more thought 
and more work to science. In the same way the great cause of the decline of 
religion is that we have lost touch with it, either by abandoning religion altogether, 
or by contenting ourselves with a nominal outward profession that does not affect 
our daily life and our real interests. And the only way to bring religion into touch 
with the modern world is to give it the first place in our own thought and in our 
own lives. If we wish to be scientific, we must submit to the authority of science 
and sacrifice our easy acceptance of things as they seem to the severe discipline of 
scientific method. And in the same way, if we wish to be religious we must submit 
to religious authority and accept the principles of the spiritual order. In the material 
world, man must conform himself to realities, otherwise he will perish. And the 
same is true in the spiritual world. God comes first, not man. He is more real than 
the whole external universe. Man passes away, empires and civilisations rise and 
fall, the stars grow old; God remains. 

This is the fundamental truth which runs through the whole of the Bible. There is, 
of course, a great deal more than this in Christianity. In fact, it is a truth that 
Christianity shares with practically all the religions of the world. Nevertheless it is 
just this truth that the modern world, like the ancient world before it, finds most 
difficult to accept. You even find people who reject it and still wish to call 
themselves Christians. They water down religion to a series of moral platitudes and 
then dignify this mixture of vague religiosity and well-meaning moral optimism 
with the respectable name of Christianity. 

A Concrete reality 

In reality Christianity is not merely a moral ideal or set of ideas. It is a concrete 
reality. It is the spiritual order incarnated in a historical person and in a historical 
society. The spiritual order is just as real as the material order. The reason we do 
not see it is because we do not look at it. Our interests and our thoughts are 
elsewhere. A few exceptional men, mystics or philosophers, may find it possible to 
live habitually on a spiritual plane, but for the ordinary man it is a difficult 
atmosphere to breathe in. But it is the function of Christianity to bring the spiritual 
order into contact and relation with the world of man. It is, as it were, a bridge 

between the two worlds; it brings religion down into human life and it opens the 
door of the spiritual world to man. Its ideal is not a static and unchanging order like 
that of the other world religions. It is a spiritual society or organism that has 
incorporated itself with humanity and that takes into itself as it proceeds all that is 
vital and permanent in human life and civilisation. It aims at nothing less than the 
spiritual integration of humanity, its deliverance from the tyranny of material force 
and the dominion of selfish aims, and its reconstitution in spiritual unity. 
And thus there are two principles in Christianity which though they sometimes 
appear contradictory are equally essential as the two poles of the spiritual order. 
There is the principle of transcendence, represented by the apocalyptic, ascetic, 
world-denying element in religion, and there is the principle of catholicity, which 
finds expression in the historic, social, world-embracing activity of the Church. A 
one-sided emphasis on the former of these leads to sectarianism, as we see in the 
history of the early Christian sects that refused all compromise with secular 
civilisation and stood aside in an attitude of negative and sterile isolation. But the 
Catholic Church rejected this solution as a betrayal of its universal mission. 
It converted the ancient world; it became the Church of the Empire; and it took up 
into itself the traditional heritage of culture that the Puritanism of the sectaries 
despised. In this way the Church overcame the conflict between religion and 
secular culture that had weakened the forces of Roman society, and laid the 
foundations of a new civilisation. For more than a thousand years society found its 
centre of unity and its principle of order in Christianity. But the mediaeval 
synthesis, both in its Byzantine and mediaeval form, while it gave a more complete 
expression to the social function of Christianity than any other age has done, ran 
the risk of compromising the other Christian principle of transcendence by the 
immersion of the spiritual in the temporal order — the identification of the Church 
and the World. The history of mediaeval Christendom shows a continuous series of 
efforts on the part of orthodox reformers and Catharist and "spiritual" heretics 
against the secularisation and worldliness of the Church. And, as the wealth and 
intellectual culture of Western Europe increased, the tension grew more acute. 
It was the coming of the Renaissance and the whole-hearted acceptance by the 
Papacy of the new humanist culture that stretched the mediaeval synthesis to 
breaking-point and produced a new outburst of reforming sectarianism. It is true 
that Catholicism met the challenge of the Reformation by its own movement of 
spiritual reform. But it failed to recover the lost unity of Christendom and was 
forced to lose touch with the dominant movements in secular culture. Thus 
Christianity withdrew more and more into the sphere of the individual religious life 
and the world went its own way. European civilisation was rationalised and 
secularised until it ceased even nominally to be Christian. Nevertheless it 
continued to subsist unconsciously on the accumulated capital of its Christian past, 

from which it drew the moral and social idealism that inspired the humanitarian 
and liberal and democratic movements of the last two centuries. Today this 
spiritual capital is exhausted, and civilisation is faced with the choice between a 
return to the spiritual traditions of Christianity or the renunciation of them in 
favour of complete social materialism. 

But if Christianity is to regain its influence, it must recover its unity and its social 
activity. The religious individualism of the last age, with its self-centred absorption 
in the question of personal salvation and private religious emotion, will not help us. 
The Christianity of the future must be a social Christianity that is embodied in a 
real society, not an imaginary or invisible one. And this society must not be merely 
a part of the existing social and political order, like the established churches of the 
past; it must be an independent and universal society, not a national or local one. 
The only society that fulfills these conditions is the Catholic Church, the most 
ancient yet, at the same time, the most adaptable of all existing institutions. It is 
true that Catholicism has suffered grievously from the sectarian division and strife 
of the last four hundred years, but it has succeeded in surmounting the long drawn- 
out crisis that followed the dissolution of the mediaeval synthesis, and it stands out 
today as the one remaining centre of unity and spiritual order in Europe. If 
Christianity is necessary to Europe, the Catholic Church is no less necessary to 
Christianity, for without it the latter would become no more than a mass of 
divergent opinions dissolving under the pressure of rationalist criticism and 
secularist culture. It was by virtue of the Catholic ideal of spiritual unity that the 
social unity of European culture emerged from the welter of barbarism, and the 
modern world stands no less in need of such an ideal if it is to realise in the future 
the wider unity of a world civilisation. 

But though Christianity is necessary to civilisation, we must not forget the 
profound difference that there is between them. It is the great paradox of 
Christianity, as Newman so often insisted, that though Christianity is a principle of 
life to civilisation even in secular matters, it is continually at issue with the world 
and always seems on the verge of being destroyed by it. Thus the Church is 
necessary to Europe, and yet any acceptance of the Church because it is necessary 
to society is destructive of its real essence. Nothing could be more fatal to the spirit 
of Christianity than a return to Christianity for political reasons. 
But, on the other hand, any attempt to create a purely political or social religion is 
equally destined to fail. Nothing is more remarkable than the collapse of all the 
efforts to create an artificial religion to meet "the needs of the age." Deism, Saint- 
Simonianism, Positivism and the rest have all ended in failure. It is only a religion 
that transcends political and economic categories and is indifferent to material 
results that has the power of satisfying the need of the world. As Newman wrote 
eighty years ago : 

"The Catholic Church has accompanied human society through one revolution of 
its great year; and it is now beginning a second. She has passed through the full 
cycle of changes in order to show that she is independent of them all. She has had 
trial of East and West, of monarchy and democracy, of peace and war, of times of 
darkness and times of philosophy, of old countries and young." 
And today she still stands as she did under the Roman Empire, as the 
representative in a changing world of an unchanging spiritual order. That is why I 
believe the Church that made Europe may yet save Europe, and that, in the great 
words of the Easter liturgy: 

"the whole world may experience and see what was fallen raised up, what had 
grown old made new, and all things returning to unity through Him from whom 
they took their beginning." 


"Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind" 

Published in The Colosseum (London, December 1935), reprinted in Dynamics of 
World History (1958), pp. 200-212. 

The question of the bourgeois involves a real issue which Christians cannot afford to shirk. For it 
is difficult to deny that there is a fundamental disharmony between bourgeois and Christian 
civilization and between the mind of the bourgeois and the mind of Christ. 

But first let us admit that it is no use hunting for the bourgeois. For we are all more or less 
bourgeois and our civilization is bourgeois from top to bottom. Hence there can be no question of 
treating the bourgeois in the orthodox communist fashion as a gang of antisocial reptiles who can 
be exterminated summarily by the revolutionary proletariat; for in order to "liquidate" the 
bourgeoisie modern society would have to "liquidate" itself. 

This is where Marx went wrong. His theory of increasing misery led him to suppose that the line 
of class division would become sharper and more strongly defined, until the rising tide of 
popular misery broke the dykes and swept away the closed world of privileged bourgeois society. 
Instead of this we have seen the bourgeois culture, the bourgeois mind, even the bourgeois 
standards of life advancing and expanding until they became diffused throughout the whole 
social organism and dominated the whole spirit of modern civilization. 

And so in order to understand the essential character of the bourgeois, it is necessary to disregard 
for the moment this universalized bourgeois culture which is part of the very air we breathe and 
turn back to the time when the bourgeois was still a distinct social type which could be isolated 
from the other elements in society and studied as an independent phenomenon. 

Now the bourgeois was in origin the member of a small and highly specialized class which had 
grown up within the wall of the mediaeval city commune. Far from being the average European 
man, he was an exceptional type standing somewhat outside the regular hierarchy of the 
medieval state, which was primarily an agrarian society consisting of the nobility, the clergy, and 
the peasantry. His very existence was guaranteed by a charter of privileges which constituted the 

city-commune as a regime d'exception. Thus there was a sharp division of material interests and 
social culture between the bourgeois and the countryman, a division which was deepened in 
Eastern Europe, including Eastern Germany, by the fact that the towns were often islands of 
German speech and civilization amidst a population that was predominantly Slav. And so while 
the peasant laboured and the noble fought, the bourgeois was free to lead his own life, to mind 
his own business and to grow rich within the narrow limits of the mediaeval urban economy. 

All this seems infinitely remote from the modern world. But we must remember that it was not 
so remote from the society to which the founders of modern socialism — Lassalle and Marx and 
Engels — belonged. The German bourgeoisie had only just emerged from a regime of corporate 
rights and privileges which bound the bourgeois to his corporation, the craftsman to his guild, the 
peasant to his land, and the Jew to his ghetto. The generation before that of Marx had seen this 
structure collapse like a house of cards, so that the world was suddenly thrown open to any man 
who possessed money and enterprise — that is to say to every good bourgeois. 

Thus the process which had taken centuries to develop in Western Europe was completed in 
Central and Eastern Europe within a single lifetime. Whereas in England and the United States, 
the bourgeois spirit had already become a fluid element that interpenetrated the whole social 
organism; in Germany, or Austria, or Russia, it was still a new factor in social life and so it was 
easy for Marx to separate it from the rest of society and regard it as the distinctive mark of a 
definite limited class. 

And this explains why class hatred comes more easily to the Eastern than to the Western 
European. Croce has an amusing story of how an Italian delegate to a German socialist congress 
was obliged to apologize for the lack of class hatred in the Italian socialist movement. "We do 
not hate," he admitted, "but we are quite willing to." And in English socialism even the will to 
hatred has been lacking in spite of the fact that the proletariat in England suffered far more than 
the proletariat in Germany from the coming of industrialism. For the leaders of English socialism 
have been idealists, whether bourgeois idealists like Robert Owen and William Morris or 
Christian socialists like Keir Hardie and George Lansbury. 

But while we may well congratulate ourselves that English social life has not been poisoned by 
class hatred and class war, it does not follow that the complete penetration of English culture by 
bourgeois standards and ideals is a good or admirable thing. It is even possible that the victory of 
the bourgeois has meant the destruction of elements that are not merely valuable but essential to 
English life, since the English tradition is something much wider and deeper than the machine- 
made urban and suburban culture by which it has been temporarily submerged. 

Actually we have only to open our eyes to see that this criticism is justified. The devastated areas 
of industrial England and the cancerous growth of the suburbs are not merely offensive to the 
aesthetic sense, they are symptoms of social disease and spiritual failure. The victory of 
bourgeois civilization has made England rich and powerful, but at the same time it has destroyed 
almost everything that made life worth living. It has undermined the natural foundations of our 
national life, so that the whole social structure is in danger of ruin. 

Looked at from this point of view the distinctive feature of the bourgeois culture is its urbanism. 
It involves the divorce of man from nature and from the life of the earth. It turns the peasant into 
a minder of machines and the yeoman into a shopkeeper, until ultimately rural life becomes 
impossible and the very face of nature is changed by the destruction of the countryside and the 
pollution of the earth and the air and the waters. 

This is characteristic of modern bourgeois civilization in general, but nowhere is it more striking 
than in England. And since English culture has been historically a peculiarly rural one, the 
victory of bourgeois civilization involves a more serious breach with the national tradition and a 
more vital revolution in ways of life and thought than in any other country of Western Europe. 

But if the bourgeois is the enemy of the peasant, he is no less the enemy of the artist and the 
craftsman. As Sombart has shown in his elaborate study of the historic evolution of the bourgeois 
type, the craftsman like the artist has an organic relation to the object of his work. "They see in 
their work a part of themselves and identify themselves with it so that they would be happy if 
they could never be separated from it." For in the precapitalist order "the production of goods is 
the act of living men who, so to speak, incarnate themselves in their works: and so it follows the 
same laws that rule their physical life, in the same way as the growth of a tree or the act of 
reproduction of an animal, obeys in its direction and measure and end the internal necessities of 
the living organism."[l] The attitude of the bourgeois on the other hand is that of the merchant 
whose relation to his merchandise is external and impersonal. He sees in them only objects of 
exchange, the value of which is to be measured exclusively in terms of money. It makes no 
difference whether he is dealing in works of art or cheap ready-made suits: all that matters is the 
volume of the transactions and the amount of profit to be derived from them. In other words, his 
attitude is not qualitative, but quantitative. 

It is easy enough to see why this should be. For the bourgeois was originally the middleman who 
stood between the producer and the consumer, as merchant or salesman or broker or banker. And 
thus there is not merely an analogy, but an organic connection between the role of the bourgeois 
in society and the economic function of money. One is the middleman and the other is the 
medium of exchange. The bourgeois lives for money, not merely as the peasant or the soldier or 
even the artist often does, but in a deeper sense, since money is to him what arms are to the 
soldier and land is to the peasant, the tools of his trade and the medium through which he 
expresses himself, so that he often takes an almost disinterested pleasure in his wealth because of 
the virtuosity he has displayed in his financial operations. In short the bourgeois is essentially a 
moneymaker, at once its servant and its master, and the development of his social ascendancy 
shows the degree to which civilization, and human life are dominated by the money power. 

This is why St. Thomas and his masters, both Greeks and Christians, look with so little favour on 
the bourgeois. For they regarded money simply as an instrument, and therefore held that the man 
who lives for money perverts the true order of life. 

"Business," says St. Thomas, "considered in itself, has a certain baseness (turpitudo) inasmuch as 
it does not of itself involve any honorable or necessary end." 

We find this criticism repeated at the time of the Renaissance by humanists like Erasmus: indeed, 
it is the basis of that aristocratic prejudice against the bourgeois which has never entirely 
disappeared and which reappears in all sorts of forms from sheer idealism to pure snobbery in the 
most unlikely times and places. 

Thus the classical Marxian opposition of bourgeois and proletarian is but one of a whole series of 
oppositions and class conflicts which the rise of the bourgeoisie has aroused. There is the 
aristocratic opposition of which I have just spoken. There is the opposition of the artist which did 
so much to bring the name of the "bourgeois" into disrepute in the nineteenth century. There is 
the opposition to the bourgeois in so far as he is the representation and incarnation of the money 
power — an opposition which has found a new expression in the Social Credit movement. And 

finally there is the opposition between bourgeois and peasant, which is more fundamental and 
deep-rooted than any of them. 

But while all these oppositions are real and each implies a genuine criticism of bourgeois culture, 
none of them is absolute or exhaustive. There is a more essential opposition still, which has been 
pointed out by Sombart and which goes beyond economics and sociology to the bedrock of 
human nature. According to Sombart, the bourgeois type corresponds to certain definite 
psychological predispositions. In other words there is such a thing as a bourgeois soul and it is in 
this rather than in economic circumstance that the whole development of the bourgeois culture 
finds its ultimate root. In the same way the opposite pole to the bourgeois is not to be found in a 
particular economic function of interest, as for instance the proletarian or the peasant, but rather 
in the antibourgeois temperament, the type of character which naturally prefers to spend rather 
than to accumulate, to give rather than to gain. These two types correspond to Bergson's 
classification of the "open" and "closed" temperaments and they represent the opposite poles of 
human character and human experience. They are in eternal opposition to one another and the 
whole character of a period or a civilization depends on which of the two predominates. 

Thus we are led back from the external and material class conflict of the Marxians to a 
conception not far removed from that of St. Augustine, "Two loves built two cities"; the essential 
question is not the question of economics, but the question of love. "Looking at the matter 
closely," writes Sombart, "we get the impression that the opposition between these two 
fundamental types rests in the final analysis on an opposition of erotic life, for it is clear that this 
dominates the whole of human conduct as a superior and invisible power. The bourgeois and the 
erotic temperaments constitute, so to speak, the two opposite poles of the world." Sombart's use 
of the word "erotic" is of course wider than the current English term. Unsatisfactory as the word 
"erotic" is, it is the best we have, for "charitable" is even more miserably inadequate. Our 
bourgeois culture has reduced the heavenly flame of St. Paul's inspired speech to a dim bulb that 
is hardly strong enough to light a mother's meeting. But Sombart expressly distinguishes it from 
sensuality, which may be found in either of the two types of temperament. Indeed, the erotic type 
par excellence in Sombart's view is the religious mystic, the "man of desire," like St. Augustine 
or St. Francis. 

Seen from this point of view, it is obvious that the Christian ethos is essentially antibourgeois, 
since it is an ethos of love. This is particularly obvious in the case of St. Francis and the 
mediaeval mystics, who appropriated to their use the phraseology of mediaeval erotic poetry and 
used the antibourgeois concepts of the chivalrous class-consciousness, such as "adel, " "noble, " 
and "gentile," in order to define the spiritual character of the true mystic. 

But it is no less clear in the case of the Gospel itself. The spirit of the Gospel is eminently that of 
the "open" type which gives, asking nothing in return, and spends itself for others. It is 
essentially hostile to the spirit of calculation, the spirit of worldly prudence and above all to the 
spirit of religious self-seeking and self-satisfaction. For what is the Pharisee but a spiritual 
bourgeois, a typically "closed" nature, a man who applies the principle of calculation and gain 
not to economics but to religion itself, a hoarder of merits, who reckons his accounts with heaven 
as though God was his banker? It is against this "closed," self-sufficient moralist ethic that the 
fiercest denunciations of the Gospels are directed. Even the sinner who possesses a seed of 
generosity, a faculty of self-surrender, and an openess of spirit is nearer to the kingdom of heaven 
than the "righteous" Pharisee; for the soul that is closed to love is closed to grace. 

In the same way the ethos of the Gospels is sharply opposed to the economic view of life and the 

economic virtues. It teaches men to live from day to day without taking thought for their material 
needs. "For a man's life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses." It even 
condemns the prudent forethought of the rich man who plans for the future: "Thou fool, this 
night do they require thy soul of thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast 

Thus so long as the Christian ideal was supreme, it was difficult for the bourgeois spirit to assert 
itself. It is true, as Sombart insists, that the bourgeois class and the bourgeois view of life had 
already made its appearance in mediaeval Europe, but powerful as they were, especially in the 
Italian cities, they always remained limited to a part of life and failed to dominate the whole 
society or inspire civilization with their spirit. It was not until the Reformation had destroyed the 
control of the Church over social life in Northern Europe that we find a genuine bourgeois 
culture emerging. And whatever we may think of Max Weber's thesis regarding the influence of 
the Reformation on the origins of capitalism, we cannot deny the fact that the bourgeois culture 
actually developed on Protestant soil, and especially in a Calvinist environment, while the 
Catholic environment seemed decidedly unfavourable to its evolution. 

It is indeed impossible to find a more complete example in history of the opposition of Sombart's 
two types than in the contrast of the culture of the Counter Reformation lands with that of 
seventeenth-century Holland and eighteenth-century England and Scotland and North America. 
The Baroque culture of Spain and Italy and Austria is the complete social embodiment of 
Sombart's "erotic" type. It is not that it was a society of nobles and peasants and monks and 
clerics which centred in palaces and monasteries (or even palace-monasteries like the Escorial), 
and left a comparatively small place to the bourgeois and the merchant. It is not merely that it 
was an uneconomic culture which spent its capital lavishly, recklessly and splendidly whether to 
the glory of God or for the adornment of human life. It was rather that the whole spirit of the 
culture was passionate and ecstatic, and finds its supreme expressions in the art of music and in 
religious mysticism. We have only to compare Bernini with the brothers Adam or St. Teresa with 
Hannah More to feel the difference in the spirit and rhythm of the two cultures. The bourgeois 
culture has the mechanical rhythm of a clock, the Baroque the musical rhythm of a fugue or a 

The ideal of the bourgeois culture is to maintain a respectable average standard. Its maxims are: 
"Honesty is the best policy," "Do as you would be done by," "The greatest happiness of the 
greatest number." But the baroque spirit lives in and for the triumphant moment of creative 
ecstasy. It will have all or nothing. Its maxims are: "All for love and the world well lost," "Nada, 
nada, nada, " "What dost thou seek for, O my soul? All is thine, all is for thee, do not take less, 
nor rest with the crumbs that fall from the table of thy Father. Go forth, and exult in thy glory, 
hide thyself in it and rejoice, and thou shalt obtain all the desires of thy heart. " 

The conflict between these two ideals of life and forms of culture runs through the whole history 
of Europe from the Reformation to the Revolution and finds its political counterpart in the 
struggle between Spain and the Protestant Powers. It is hardly too much to say that if Philip II 
had been victorious over the Dutch and the English and the Huguenots, modern bourgeois 
civilization would never have developed and capitalism in so far as it existed would have 
acquired an entirely different complexion. The same spirit would have ruled at Amsterdam as at 
Antwerp, at Berlin as at Munich, in North America as in South, and thus the moment when 
Alexander Farnese turned back a dying man from his march on Paris may be regarded as one of 
the greatest turning points in world history. Even so it is quite conceivable that Europe might 

have fallen apart into two closed worlds, as alien and opposed to one another as Christendom and 
Islam, had it not been that neither culture was strong enough to assimilate France. For a time 
during the first half of the seventeenth century, the Counter Reformation and its culture carried 
everything before them, but the bourgeois spirit in France was already too strong to be 
eliminated and it allied itself with the monarchy and the Gallican church against ultramontane 
Catholicism and Baroque culture. 

Although the classicist and Gallican culture of the age of Louis XIV was far from being 
genuinely bourgeois, it contained a considerable bourgeois element and owed a great deal to men 
of bourgeois class and bourgeois spirit, such as Boileau, Nicole and even perhaps Bossuet 
himself. The resultant change in the spirit of French religion and culture is to be seen in that 
"retreat of the mystics" of which Bremond speaks, and in the victory of a rather hard and brilliant 
Nationalism which prepared the way for the rationalism of the Enlightenment. Thus French 
eighteenth-century culture became an open door through which the bourgeois spirit penetrated 
the closed world of Baroque Catholicism, first as a leaven of criticism and new ideas, and finally 
as a destructive flood of revolutionary change which destroyed the moral and social foundations 
of the Baroque culture. The uneconomic character of that culture left it powerless to withstand 
the highly organized financial power of the new commercialist bourgeois society. It went in the 
same way that the Hellenistic world succumbed to the superior organization of Roman 
imperialism. Nevertheless it did not succumb without a struggle, for wherever the common 
people possessed the power of organization and the means of defence, and wherever the religious 
tradition of the Counter Reformation had struck deep roots in the soil, they fought with desperate 
resolution and heroism in defense of the old Catholic order,[2] as in La Vendee in 1793, in Tirol 
in 1809, and in the Basque provinces till late in the nineteenth century. 

With the passing of the Baroque culture a vital element went out of Western civilization. Where 
its traditions survived into the nineteenth century, as in Austria and Spain and parts of Italy and 
South Germany, one still feels that life has a richer savour and a more vital rhythm than in the 
lands where the bourgeois spirit is triumphant. Unfortunately the breach with the past seems too 
great for Europe to recover this lost tradition even when the bourgeois civilization is decadent 
and exhausted. Men look for an alternative not to the humane culture of the immediate Catholic 
past but to the inhuman mass civilization of Russia or the barbaric traditions of German 
paganism, while in our own country we are abandoning the competitive selfishness of the older 
capitalism only to adopt a bourgeois version of socialism which is inspired by a humanitarian 
policy of social reform, derived from the liberal-democratic tradition. It aims not at the 
proletarian revolutionary ideal of the communists, but rather at the diffusion of bourgeois 
standards of life and culture among the whole population — the universalizing of the bourgeois 
rentier type. 

Whatever may be the future of these movements there can be little doubt that they mark an 
important change in the history of the bourgeois civilization and that the age of the free and 
triumphant progress of Western capitalism is ended. Capitalism may well survive, but it will be a 
controlled and socialized capitalism which aims rather at maintaining the general standard of life 
than at the reckless multiplication of wealth by individuals. Yet the mere slowing down of the 
tempo of economic life, the transformation of capitalism from a dynamic to a static form will not 
in itself change the spirit of our civilization. Even if it involves the passing of the bourgeois type 
in its classical nineteenth-century form, it may only substitute a post-bourgeois type which is no 
less dominated by economic motives, though it is more mechanized and less dominated by the 

competitive spirit. It may not be, as so many Continental critics of English society suggest, the 
bourgeois capitalist order in a senile and decadent form. As we have already pointed out, the 
character of a culture is determined not so much by its form of economic organization as by the 
spirit which dominates it. Socialization and the demand for a common standard of economic 
welfare, however justified it may be, do not involve a vital change in the spirit of a culture. Even 
a proletarian culture of the communist type, in spite of its avowed hatred of the bourgeois and all 
his works, is post-bourgeois rather than antibourgeois. Its spiritual element is a negative one, the 
spirit of revolution, and when the work of destruction is accomplished, it will inevitably tend to 
fall back into the traditions of the bourgeois culture, as appears to be happening in Russia at 
present. Thus, while Western communism is still highly idealistic and represents a spiritual 
protest against the bourgeois spirit and a reaction against the victorious industrial capitalism of 
the immediate past, Russian communism is actually doing for Russia what the Industrial 
Revolution did for Western Europe, and is attempting to transform a peasant people into a 
modern urban industrial society. 

No economic change will suffice to change the spirit of a culture. So long as the proletarian is 
governed by purely economic motives, he remains a bourgeois at heart. It is only in religion that 
we shall find a spiritual force that can accomplish a spiritual revolution. The true opposite to the 
bourgeois is not to be found in the communist, but in the religious man — the man of desire. The 
bourgeois must be replaced not so much by another class as by another type of humanity. It is 
true that the passing of the bourgeois does involve the coming of the worker, and there can be no 
question of a return to the old regime of privileged castes. Where Marx was wrong was not in his 
dialectic of social change, but in the narrow materialism of his interpretation which ruled out the 
religious factor. 

The fact is that Marx was himself a disgruntled bourgeois, and his doctrine of historic 
materialism is a hangover from a debauch of bourgeois economics and bourgeois philosophy. He 
was no great lover, no "man of desire," but a man of narrow, jealous, unforgiving temperament, 
who hated and calumniated his own friends and allies. And consequently he sought the motive 
power for the transformation of society not in love but in hatred and failed to recognize that the 
social order cannot be renewed save by a new principle of spiritual order. In this respect Marxian 
socialism is infinitely inferior to the old Utopian socialism, for St. Simon and his followers with 
all their extravagances had at least grasped this essential truth. They failed not because they were 
too religious but because they were not religious enough and mistook the shadows of idealism 
for the realities of genuine religion. Yet we must admit that the Church of their day with its 
reactionary Gallicanism and its official alliance with the secular power gave them some excuse 
for their end. 

Today Christians are faced with a no less heavy responsibility. There is always a temptation for 
religion to ally itself with the existing order, and if we today ally ourselves with the bourgeois 
because the enemies of the bourgeois are often also the enemies of the Church, we shall be 
repeating the mistake that the Gallican prelates made in the time of Louis XVIII. The Christian 
Church is the organ of the spirit, the predestined channel through which the salvific energy of 
divine love flows out and transforms humanity. But it depends on the Christians of a particular 
generation, both individually and corporately, whether this source of spiritual energy is brought 
into contact with the life of humanity and the needs of contemporary society. We can hoard our 
treasure, we can bury our talent in the ground like the man in the parable who thought that his 
master was an austere man and who feared to take risks. Or, on the other hand, we can choose the 

difficult and hazardous way of creative spiritual activity, which is the way of the saints. If the age 
of the martyrs has not yet come, the age of a limited, self-protective, bourgeois religion is over. 
For the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. 

1 Sombart, Le Bourgeois (French trans.), pp. 25-27. 

2 These popular risings may be compared with the peasant risings against the Reformation in 
sixteenth-century England. In each case it was the common people and not the privileged classes 
who were the mainstay of the resistance. 


"The Papacy and the Modern World," the final chapter of Christianity in East and 
West, published in 1959. 

The Popes of the twentieth century have been called to rule the Church in an age of 
revolutionary change when one catastrophe has followed upon another, when the 
old landmarks have been submerged by the flood of change and the old rules of 
tradition and precedent no longer avail. During these pontificates the world has 
changed and the conditions of the Christian apostolate have been changed with it. 
A new world has come into existence, though it often seems not a world but a 
formless chaos, and the Church has had to find a new language in which to speak 
the creative word to the new nations that are being born or renewed. 

In the last years of the reign of Pius IX, Rome was perhaps more isolated from the 
civilization of the modern world than at any previous period. The great 
achievements of the pontificate of Pius IX had seemed to be annulled by the 
political defeat of the Papacy and the destruction of the temporal power. Pius IX 
had become the prisoner of the Vatican and his last years were darkened by the 
growing alienation of the Catholic world from the Holy See. It was the age of the 
Kulturkampf, the denunciation of the Austrian Concordat and the growth of 
militant anticlericalism in France and Italy and Latin America. In Italy, Catholics 
could no longer take part in public life, while elsewhere they had become 
identified with lost causes like Carlism in Spain and royalism in France: in the eyes 
of a hostile world the Papacy seemed to stand alone, undefended and without 
allies, against the triumphant forces of modern secular civilization. 

Nevertheless there were some who read the lesson of history in a very different 
sense. Cardinal Manning, who had been one of the foremost defenders of the 
temporal power in the years before 1870, was also one of the first to foresee the 
true nature of the change that was taking place. During his visits to Rome in these 

years he expressed again and again his sense that a turning point in the history of 
the Church had been reached, that the old world of the courts and dynasties was 
dead and that a new world of the peoples was coming into existence — a new 
Christendom which was no longer confined to Europe but was expanding across 
the oceans and the continents to embrace the whole habitable world. 

In 1878 this new world was indeed only visible to the eye of the prophet. The 
world was dominated by a small group of European states and statesmen and the 
expansion of Western civilization represented the triumph of material power and 
the exploitation of a subject world by Western capitalism. 

It was however in this age that Leo XIII laid the foundations of a new papal 
apostolate and began the great work of Christian reconstruction which has now 
reached its fulfillment in the work of the Papacy in the 20th century. 

In the past, encyclicals and other papal utterances had possessed a somewhat 
limited appeal. They were read by bishops and theologians, but they did not reach 
the common man, nor did they deal with the problems which immediately affected 
the lives of the masses. But from the time of Leo XIII onwards, papal utterances 
have acquired a new character. Peter has spoken directly to the whole body of the 
faithful on the great issues which concern humanity: on modern civilization and 
the dangers that threaten it, on the state and its functions, on liberty and citizenship, 
on capitalism and socialism, on the condition of the workers and on the family as 
the basis of human society. 

But the new apostolate to the nations which was begun by Leo XIII assumed a new 
character during the period after World War I. In the beginning, Leo XIII was 
speaking to a world that was intoxicated by material power and prosperity and 
there were few to listen to the prophetic voice which warned Europe of the dangers 
that threatened society and of the abyss of destruction towards which modern 
society was tending. But after 1914 the whole aspect of history changed. The old 
securities disappeared and the dangers which Leo XIII had foreseen suddenly 
became monstrous realities with which European statesmen were forced to grapple 
and which affected the life and death of millions of common men. The catastrophe 
brought the Papacy and the modern world together in a new way. Not that the 
conflict between Christian principles and secular civilization was in any way 
lessened; on the contrary the revolutionary consequences of the first World War, 
above all in Russia, revealed more clearly than ever how deep this conflict was: but 
at least men could no longer feel, as they had done in the 19th century, that the 
Church had become detached from the contemporary world and that the teachings 
of the Papacy were no longer relevant to the needs of modern man. For now it 
became evident that the cause of the Church was the cause of humanity. 

For more than a hundred years Western man has set his faith in a religion of 
material progress and scientific enlightenment which would free mankind from the 
miseries and ignorance of past ages and create an earthly paradise of freedom and 
prosperity. Now this dream has suddenly disappeared, and its failure was not due to 
any lack of power, since it occurred at a moment when Science had given Western 
man new powers which far surpassed his highest expectations. It was a moral and 
spiritual failure due to a flaw in his own nature — a curse of Babel which divided 
man from man and nation from nation so that they no longer understood one 
another's speech but were driven to destroy one another by an instinct that was far 
stronger than the rational idealism in which they had put their faith. This is the 
curse of nationalism which, beginning in the romantic cult of the element of 
diversity in European culture, has spread like an epidemic from one end of the 
world to the other, leaving no room for an international order and no common 
ground on which to build a world civilization. 

In this confusion of tongues, the Papacy stands as the one supranational power 
which can speak to the nations the words of peace and reconciliation. At first sight, 
the Church has little reason to look with hope on this new situation. She has lost 
not only her old allies, the Catholic monarchies which disappeared after the first 
World War, but also the Christian states of Eastern Europe like Poland and 
Hungary which have disappeared behind the iron curtain of a totalitarian and anti- 
Christian imperialism. She has seen the field of her missionary activity 
increasingly restricted by the revolt of Asia and Africa against the West, and while 
Christianity has suffered from its traditional association with European culture, that 
culture itself has continued to become increasingly secularized and more alienated 
from the Christian Faith. 

But these losses have been in some degree compensated by the new opportunities 
that have been opened to the Christian apostolate. The breakdown of the traditional 
association between the Church and the Catholic States with their concordats and 
entrenched privileges and prerogatives, has set the Papacy free to undertake its 
universal mission to humanity at large. The new pattern of international 
organization and world order has far more in common with the Catholic ideal of 
natural law and universal order than the old state system which rested so largely on 
raison d'etat and the claims of historical precedent. 

No doubt the new internationalism is secular in spirit and derives from liberal 
rather than Christian tradition; no doubt its action is still hampered and restricted 
by power politics and the power of the veto. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the 
central principles on which the Popes had based their social teaching — the unity 
of the family of nations and the sovereignty of the reign of law and of the 
principles of international justice — have now been accepted and given judicial 

expression by the ruling powers of the modern world. At the same time the 
establishment of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and the numerous 
subsidiary institutions for cultural and economic purposes, has created a new world 
forum and a new area of common activity which is at once wider and more free 
than the old diplomatic channels of international action. 

The principles formulated by papal teaching apply not only to the relation between 
society and the individual, but also to the relation of societies to one another. In 
principle, according to the creative divine purpose for humanity, all the different 
societies and states and peoples form a universal community with a common 
purpose and common duties. Thus, there is no room for state sovereignty in the 
absolute sense, for every state is the member of a wider society and is morally 
bound to cooperate with its fellows for the common good and to submit to the 
common law of international justice — to the law of nature and of nations. 

This international society was not created by the Treaty of Versailles or the Atlantic 
Charter. It has always existed and looks to nature and the Creator of nature as its 

But there is an immense gulf between this divinely instituted and immutable order 
and the historical realities of international politics, in which states and nations have 
devoured one another, like the fishes in the sea. Throughout history, war and 
violence have been so common that they seem the normal condition of the human 
race and there have been times like the early middle ages when this state of 
perpetual war was not confined to states and empires but was diffused throughout 
society, so that every city and family was in arms against its neighbor. Under these 
conditions the reign of law was confined to islands of order that had been created 
and defended by the sword. For the sword is the traditional symbol of sovereignty 
and it was only under its shadow that human justice was administered. 

At the same time even in the darkest ages mankind retained a consciousness of the 
divine origins of justice and of the duty of the bearer of the sword to use his power 
in the service of God. And as the Church extended her influence over the barbarian 
kingdoms of Europe, there grew up a Christian Society of Nations which 
recognized, at least in principle, that they were bound by a common law of justice, 
so that the evil realities of war and despotism were no longer the only reality, but 
were regarded as the social expression of the moral disorder in which human 
nature has been involved from the beginning. 

In the modern world both these two opposing tendencies are still represented, 
though today they have assumed new forms. On the one hand, as Pius XII pointed 
out in his first encyclical — Summi Pontificatus — the secularization of modern 
civilization has brought darkness on the earth and has set up in a new form the old 

blood stained idols which Christianity had cast out. The totalitarian state involves 
not only the denial of personal liberty and the freedom of conscience, it is also 
irreconcilable with international peace and order, since it puts itself outside the 
family of nations and denies the existence of any higher law than the law of 
revolutionary violence. And the same errors are found in the exaggerated forms of 
nationalism, which substitute nationality for humanity as the ultimate source of 
social values, and exalt the way of life of a particular people above the universal 
moral law. 

But this is only one side of the picture, for the same age which has seen the 
secularization of Western culture and the rise of the totalitarian state, has also 
witnessed the development of a world-wide movement making for international 
order and cooperation. The influence of this movement is not confined to the two 
great official experiments in world government — the League of Nations and the 
United Nations Organization. It also manifests itself at many different levels in 
international movements for humanitarian, economic, scientific, and cultural ends; 
and though these are now being brought into relation with the United Nations 
Organization, many of them are independent in origin and date back to the last 

All this is a new phenomenon. It may have been inspired to some extent by the 
example and influence of Christianity, but it is not the conscious product of 
Christian principles, like the common institutions of medieval Christendom. 

Nevertheless it is an unfortunate fact that internationalism, like the 
humanitarianism with which it is so closely allied, is a relatively superficial 
movement, which represents the aspirations of the idealist or the moralist; whereas 
totalitarianism and ultra-nationalism are inspired by the deeper irrational forces in 
human nature which manifest themselves in war and revolution. 

Thus the soul of modern civilization is divided between the sublimated abstractions 
of humanity and international unity and scientific enlightenment which are 
apparent to reason, and the repressed forces of revolution and violence which move 
the passions and the will to power. And Humanity will perish in the conflict unless 
some higher spiritual power intervenes. 

As the Church in the Dark Ages provided the spiritual motive power which 
transformed the warring chaos of the barbarian world into the European 
commonwealth of nations, so today the Church remains the only power which is 
capable of overcoming the spiritual disorder of the modern world and making the 
Society of Nations a living organic reality. 

No doubt this international mission will be regarded by secular opinion as remote 
from the political realities of the modern world. If the Catholic Church can no 

longer maintain its old unquestioned authority in Christian Europe, if Christendom 
no longer exists as a social reality, how can we expect to see the extension of her 
influence over the nations that have never known her, or have been divided from 
her by centuries of conscious opposition? In the past moreover, the Church was 
able to extend her influence into the non-Christian world through the alliance and 
protection of the colonial and imperial powers: as we see in the case of the Spanish 
empire in America, the Portuguese patriarchate in Asia, and the Austrian empire 
and the Polish kingdom in Eastern Europe. But today these powers no longer exist 
and the very memory of their achievements is an embarrassment when the old 
cultures of Asia and the new nationalism of Africa are in revolt against the West 
and the traditions of European colonization. 

Yet in spite of all these difficulties there has been no weakening in the Church's 
insistence on the universality of her mission. On the contrary she has redoubled her 
missionary activities during the present century, and the decline of power and 
influence of Western Christendom has brought out more clearly than ever her 
international or rather supranational character as the one universal society in which 
the spiritual unity of the human race is realized. 

For secular internationalism, in spite of the hope of peace that it offers, is at once a 
lower and more abstract thing than the universal spiritual society whose feet are 
firmly planted in history and whose Head is divine: a Society which possesses no 
less objective reality and juridical form than a State, while at the same time its 
action extends to the very depths of the individual human soul. 

In his Christmas allocution to the College of Cardinals in 1945, Pius XII spoke as 
follows: "The Catholic Church, of which Rome is the centre, is supranational by its 
very nature . . . The Church is a mother — Sancta Mater Ecclesia — a true mother, 
mother of all nations and all peoples, no less than of all men individually. And 
precisely because she is a mother, she does not and cannot belong exclusively to 
this or that people, nor even more to some than others, but equally to all." 

And the Holy Father then went on to describe how the growing individualism and 
totalitarianism of the modern state has made it more vital than ever to assert this 
supranational character which is no longer centered in Europe and the old society 
of Western Christendom, but which has extended its sphere of action to include the 
other continents. 

And he concludes: "Is there not revealed in this progressive enrichment of the 
supernatural and even the natural life of mankind the true significance of the 
Church's supranational character? She is not — because of this supranational 
character — placed aloft, as though suspended in an inaccessible and intangible 
isolation above the nations. [But] just as Christ was in the midst of men, so too His 

Church in which He continues to live, is placed in the midst of the peoples, as 
Christ assumed a real human nature, so too the Church takes to herself the fullness 
of all that is genuinely human, wherever and however she finds it, and transforms 
it into a source of supernatural energy. 

"Thus ever more fully is verified in the Church of today that phenomenon which 
St. Augustine praised in his City of God: 'The Church recruits her citizens from all 
nations and in every language assembles her community of pilgrims upon earth. 
She is not anxious about diversities in customs, laws and institutions, she does not 
exclude or destroy any of them but rather preserves and observes them. Even the 
differences in different nations, so long as they do not impede the worship of the 
one supreme God, she directs to the one common end of peace upon earth.'" 

This universal mission to the nations is something quite different from the relation 
of Church to State which has been the main centre of attention in the past and 
which has given rise to so much discussion and controversy. 

The State is the juridical organization of social and military power; while the 
nation represents the natural organic community of speech and culture into which a 
man is born and from which he receives the indelible imprint of a particular social 
tradition. The number of states is limited and their importance is determined by 
official status and protocol. 

But the nations and peoples of the earth are countless and their only title to 
recognition is the mere fact of their existence. They may be the creators of world 
empires or lost tribes that have been thrust aside out of the stream of history. But 
whatever they are, strong or weak, civilized or barbarian, they all alike possess 
their place in the Church's universal mission. Each has its own language and its 
own way of life and the Church calls on them all to hear the words of life in their 
own tongue and to use their way of life as a way to the service of God. 

This Christian internationalism with its ideal of spiritual unity in national diversity 
stands in contrast and opposition to the totalitarian pattern of world order which 
threatens the existence not only of Christianity but of humanity itself. But this 
danger is not entirely due to the aggressive action of those ideological dictatorships 
like Communism which aim deliberately at world conquest. They have their 
ultimate source in certain tendencies in modern culture which are world-wide and 
which are growing stronger in proportion as the world is drawn together by 
economic and political forces. 

The new powers created by modern science have made the technological 
organization of life more complicated and more all-embracing, while on the other 
hand the development of democracy has made publicity and the formation and 
influence of mass opinion the dominant forces in social life. 

These forces are not in themselves evil, so long as they are subordinated to rational 
and moral ends, but as soon as they get out of control or are exploited recklessly in 
the interests of power by parties or groups, they become engines of social 
destruction. Any society that submits to their unrestricted action becomes a huge 
machine which crushes human nature under its pressure and uses the disintegration 
of the mind and will of the individual human person as a source of inhuman 

This process of degeneration and destruction affects the life of nations as well as 
individuals, since, as Pius XII has observed, the totalitarian order destroys that 
continuity in time which has hitherto been regarded as an essential condition of life 
in society, so that man is cut off from his social past and left isolated to face the 
enormous pressure of contemporary materialism. 

Now it is the consciousness of continuity in time, of the living past and the social 
inheritance, that makes a nation and a social culture. If the nations are deprived of 
this, they are no more than masses — human herds separated from one another by 
the barriers of language, and submitted blindly to the absolute control of forces 
which possess unlimited technological power and resources, but which are 
themselves blind, because they lack spiritual knowledge and direction. 

In this dark world, divided against itself, cursed by the confusion of tongues and 
frustrated by the lack of common purpose, the Papacy speaks to the nations as the 
representative of the only power that can "lead man back from the shadows into the 
light. The Church alone can make him conscious of the past, master of the present, 
and secure for the future. Like the mother of a family, she daily gathers around her 
all her sons scattered over the world and brings them into the unity of her vital 
Divine Principle." (Pius XII, Allocution of February 20, 1946) 

This profound doctrine of the supranational mission of the Church as the center of 
spiritual unity in a divided humanity has been developed and actualized by the 
Popes of the twentieth century throughout the course of their apostolic ministry. In 
countless utterances and public audiences they have applied these principles to the 
special needs and circumstances of the different peoples. Never perhaps in the 
history of the Church have the peoples come to Rome in such numbers and from so 
many different regions, and in addition a still wider audience has been reached by 
radio and television and all the resources of modern publicity. 

We seem to see the beginnings of a new Pentecostal dispensation by which again 
"all men hear in their own tongues the wonderful works of God." 

The pontificates of the twentieth century have occurred in a catastrophic period, 
full of wars and the rumors of wars and the distress of nations, but they have also 
seen the dawn of a new hope for humanity. 

They foreshadow the birth of a new Christendom — a Society which is not 
confined as in the past to a single group of nations and a single civilization but 
which is common to every people and language and unites all the members of the 
human family in the divine community of the Mystical Body of Christ. 


"The Nature and Destiny of Man," from Enquiries into Religion and Culture 
(1933), published in The Dawson Newsletter, Spring 1994. 

In her doctrine of man the Catholic Church has always held the middle path 
between two opposing theories, that which makes man an animal and that which 
holds him to be a spirit. Catholicism has always insisted that man's nature is 
twofold. He is neither flesh nor spirit, but a compound of both. It is his function to 
be a bridge between two worlds, the world of sense and the world of spirit, each 
real, each good, but each essentially different. His nature is open on either side to 
impressions and is capable of a twofold activity, and his whole destiny depends of 
the proper co-ordination of the two elements in his nature: and not his destiny 
alone; for since he is a bridge, the lower world is in some sense dependent on him 
for its spiritualization and its integration in the universal order. 

In the early ages of the Church the main opposition to this view of man's nature 
came from those who, like the Gnostics and Manicheans, held man's nature to be 
purely spiritual and his connection with the body to be in itself an evil and the 
source of all evil. 

This view, as held by the Catharists and Albigensians, was also the dominant 
heresy of the Middle Ages, and even today it has its adherents among Christian 
Scientists and Theosophists. 

During the last four hundred years, however, Spiritualism has been a steadily 
declining force, and the materialistic view of man has become the great rival of 
Catholicism. It is true that during the last generation a strong wave of Spiritualism 
passed once more over Western civilization, and showed itself both in literature 
and art, in philosophy and religion, not to speak of such lower manifestations as 
magic and table turning. Nevertheless, this movement did not rest on any clear 
view of the relations between spirit and matter. It was in the main a reaction of 
sentiment against the dogmatic scientific rationalism of the nineteenth century. In 
literature it is represented by the mystical materialism of Maeterlinck, as well as by 
the orthodox traditional Catholicism of Claidel and the vague symbolism of W. B. 
Yeats. It is neither a philosophy nor a religion, it is rather agnosticism becoming 

mystical and acquiring once more a hunger for the infinite... 

It may be that this movement is a temporary phenomenon, without any deep roots 
in the mind of the age, and without importance for the future; but it is also possible 
that it marks the beginning of a religious age and the permanent weakening of the 
rationalist and materialist tradition which has increasingly dominated Western 
civilization ever since the fifteenth century. 

The change that came over Europe at that period was too complex to be ascribed to 
any one cause. It was the breaking up of the social and religious unity of the 
Middle Ages. In every direction men were conscious of new power and new 
knowledge, and they used their new opportunities to the full in a spirit of ruthless 
self-assertion which took no heed for the rights of others and had no respect for 
authority and tradition. In this sudden and violent expansion, the genius of that age 
foresaw and traced out all the essential achievements of the modern as against the 
medieval world. Indeed, the mind of some of the great artists and humanists, above 
all of Leonardo da Vinci, is more modern than that of the philosophers of the 
eighteenth-century enlightment, or those of the pioneers of nineteenth-century 
industry and science. 

It is easy to understand that such an age should evolve a new view of human 
nature. The men of the Renaissance had turned their eyes away from the world of 
the spirit to the world of colour and form, of flesh and blood; they set their hopes 
not on the unearthly perfection of the Christian saint, but on the glory of man — 
man set free to live his own life and to realize the perfection of power and beauty 
and knowledge that was his right. They returned to the old Ionian conception of 
nature, "Physis," a single material order, which, whether it be rational or irrational, 
includes in itself all that is. "Nothing is more Divine or more human that anything 
else, but all things are alike and all Divine." 

It is true that few thinkers were sufficiently consistent or sufficiently bold to 
expound this idea explicitly, like Giordano Bruno. Nevertheless, it is implicit in the 
life and work of many of the men of the Renaissance. Rabelais, for example, may 
have been sincere in his professions of belief in God, but the true tendency of his 
ideas is shown when he substitutes for the spirit and the flesh, for supernatural 
grace and corrupt nature, the opposition of "Physis" and "Antiphysis": the joyous 
"Physis" of the humanist and poet, of the peasant and the soldier, of all that is real 
and carnal and unashamed of itself, and the hateful dark "Antiphysis" of the 
schoolmen and the monks, hostile to life and destructive of joy. 

But it was only in the exceptional minds of an exceptional age — men like Bruno 
and Rabelais — that the new ideas attained to clear expression; the ordinary man, 
even if he lived like a humanist, still half belonged in thought and feeling to the 

Middle Ages. Moreover, the Christian Renaissance of the sixteenth century largely 
undid the work of the Pagan Renaissance, so that by the beginning of the 
seventeenth century the tide seemed indeed to have turned. 

Nevertheless, the rationalist and humanist traditions were carried on, whether by 
unsystematic skeptics like Moantigne or dogmatic atheists like Vanini, until in the 
course of the eighteenth century they came at lest into their kingdom. From that 
time the negative work of destructive criticism and the positive construction of a 
rationalist and natural synthesis have been carried on vigorously, especially in the 
more favourable environment produced by the political and industrial revolutions, 
and the passing away of the ancien regime. 

Darwin's Influence 

The naturalist conception of man has above all been influenced by the Darwinian 
doctrine of the Origin of Species, and by the evolutionary theories to which this 
gave rise. The doctrine of a continuous development through the whole of animate 
nature, and the gradual evolution of the human species under the influence of 
natural selection, seemed to show that no principle external to the material world 
need be invoked to account for man: he was of a piece with the rest of nature. 
Further, the theory of evolution was linked with the earlier liberal theories of 
political and social advance to form the modern doctrine of unlimited and 
inevitable material progress, a doctrine fundamentally unscientific and based on an 
irrational optimism, but which has nevertheless become a part of the mental 
furniture of the ordinary modern man. As yet, however, the naturalist movement 
has not received its definitive philosophy. There has been no lack of ambitious 
attempts to elaborate naturalistic syntheses, but none has been final. Neither 
Condorcet nor Holbach nor Bentham nor Comte nor Spencer nor Haecked can be 
said to be the philosopher of the movement. Nevertheless, in their doctrine of man 
there is a large element common to all these philosophers. Whether they be Deists, 
Materialists, or Agnostics, they generally agree that man is a part of the material 
world; that in the knowledge, the control, and the enjoyment of this world he finds 
his true end, and that no spiritual principle can intervene in this closed order 
governed by uniform physical laws. Taking it as a whole, however, modern 
naturalism is due not so much to any philosophic theory, as to the material 
triumphs of modern civilization and man's conquest of nature. The realm of 
mystery before which man feels himself humble and weak has withdrawn its 
frontiers. Man can know his world without falling back on revelation; he can live 
his life without feeling his utter dependence on supernatural powers. He is no 
longer the servant of unknown forces, but a master in his own house, and he 
intends to make the most of his new-found powers. 

The resultant attitude to life is well shown in the following extract from Professor 

Bateson's Presidential Address to the British Association in August, 1914. "Man is 
just beginning to know himself for what he is — a rather long-lived animal with 
great powers of enjoyment if he does not deliberately forego them. Hitherto 
superstition and mythical ideas of sin have predominantly controlled these powers. 
Mysticism will not die out: for these strange fancies knowledge is no cure: but 
their forms may change, and mysticism, as a force for the suppression of joy, is 
happily losing its hold on the modern world. As in the decay of earlier religious, 
Ushabti dolls were substituted for human victims, so telepathy, necromancy, and 
other harmless toys take the place of eschatology and the inculcation of a ferocious 
moral code. Among the civilized races of Europe, we are witnessing an 
emancipation from traditional control in thought, in art, and in conduct, which is 
likely to have prolonged and wonderful influences. Returning to freer, or if you 
will, simpler conceptions of life and death, the coming generations are determined 
to get more out of this world than their forefathers did." 

This view of life is clearly rather practical than philosophical. It is only possible to 
one who looks at the surface of life; if we look at man from within, its simplicity is 
easily seen to be delusive. 

If man limits himself to a satisfied animal existence, and asks from life only what 
such an existence can give, the higher values of life at once disappear. It is from 
that very element of the eternal and the unlimited, which the materialist seeks to 
deny, that the true progress of the human race has sprung. Throughout his history, 
man has been led, not as Buckle taught, by the rational pursuit of practical and 
material ends, but by belief in a transcendent reality, and in the truth of moral and 
spiritual values. This is to a great extent true even of the values of that civilization 
which the disciple of naturalism accepts as his end. Even Professor Bateson 
himself demands of his ideal eugenist community that it shall not eliminate the 
Shakespeares and the Beethovens. Yet what value remains in Shakespeare's work if 
the doubt of Hamlet is a simple physical neurasthenia, and the despair of Lear but 
the reaction of a wounded animal to hostile circumstances? 

Man's true excellence consists not in following the law of animal nature, but in his 
resistance to it, and in his recognition of another law. The law of the animal world 
is the law of instinctive desire and brute force; there is no room in it for freedom or 
right or moral good. In man alone a new principle comes into play; for he 
recognizes that beyond the natural good of pleasure and self-fulfillment, there is a 
higher good which is independent of himself, a good that is unlimited, ideal, 
spiritual. It is true that man does not necessarily follow this good; it is easy enough 
for him to disregard it and to lapse into animalism, but even as he does so, he has 
the sense of choice, of responsibility, of something he has gained, or lost. 


"The Study of Christian Culture," first published in "Thought," Winter 1960, pp. 

One of the chief causes of the weakness of religion in the modern world has been 
the general neglect of religious studies in higher education. In the past in Europe, 
and to some extent in America also, "religious education" meant teaching a child 
his catechism, and in Protestant countries teaching him to read the Bible and 
perhaps teaching him to read the New Testament in Greek. But anything more than 
that was regarded as only necessary for the clergy. Consequently the division 
between lay and clerical studies was a very sharp one, especially in Catholic 
countries, where the candidates for the priesthood underwent a specialized training 
from a very early age in les petits seminaires. And it was this state of things which 
was largely responsible for the anticlericalism of lay opinion in Catholic Europe 
during the nineteenth century. 

But in this country there has been a different tradition, and Catholic colleges and 
universities have devoted considerable effort and thought to religious teaching and 
to the integration of Catholic theology and philosophy in the college curriculum. 
Yet even here the results have been disappointing-for this education has not 
produced many outstanding Catholic religious thinkers or philosophers. 
Consequently we are today in the midst of an active process of self-criticism in 
educational matters, especially with regard to higher education. 

The same process is also going on in non-Catholic education. Indeed, many of the 
problems are common to both systems and are the result of the immense expansion 
of the educational system and the democratic attempt to give every young man and 
woman a college education and to provide an almost unlimited choice of 
specialisms and vocational courses. Higher education has tended to become an 
anarchy of competing specialisms and no longer possesses any principle of unity. 

In this situation, which affects Catholic as well as non-Catholic colleges, we have 
been led to ask whether there is not room for the study of Christian culture and 
whether such a study might not provide a bond of integration which would unite 
the higher and more abstract principles of theology and philosophy with the 
specialized courses which prepare the student for his future profession or vocation. 
But this suggestion has encountered considerable opposition from two sides. To the 
reformer or "the liberal," it seems too reactionary—too bound up with dogmatic 
Catholic presuppositions—while to the conservative it seems to be a revolutionary 
threat to the classical studies which have been the basis of the Liberal Arts 
curriculum in the university. 

Now it is certainly true that the study of Christian culture does involve a break with 

that exclusive concentration on the Greek and Latin classics which dominated 
Western education in the past. For centuries higher education has been so identified 
with the study of one particular historic culture—that of ancient Greece and Rome— 
that there was no room for anything else. Even the study of our own particular 
national culture, including both history and literature, did not obtain full 
recognition until the nineteenth century, while the concept of Christian culture as 
an object of study has never been recognized at all. 

The great obstacle to this study has not been religious or secularist prejudices but 
strictly cultural. It had its origins in the idealization of classical antiquity by the 
humanist scholars and artists who rediscovered the Hellenistic concept of Paideia 
and in the corresponding depreciation of the education of the medieval schools. 
And it followed from this view that the period that intervened between the fall of 
Rome and the Renaissance offered the historian, as Voltaire says, "the barren 
prospect of a thousand years of stupidity and barbarism." They were "middle ages" 
in the original sense of the word— that is, a kind of cultural vacuum between two 
ages of cultural achievement which, to continue the same quotation, "vindicate the 
greatness of the human spirit." 

This view, which necessarily ignores the achievements and even the existence of 
Christian culture, was passed on almost unchanged from the Renaissance to the 
eighteenth-century Enlightenment and from the latter to the modern secularist 
ideologies. And though today every instructed person recognizes that it is based on 
a completely erroneous view of history and very largely on sheer ignorance of 
history, it still continues to exert an immense influence, both consciously and 
unconsciously, on modern education and on our attitude to the past. 

It is therefore necessary for educators to make a positive effort to exorcise the 
ghost of this ancient error and to give the study of Christian culture the place that it 
deserves in modern education. We cannot leave this to the medievalists alone, for 
they are to some extent themselves tied to the same error by the limitations of their 
specialism. For Christian culture is not the same as medieval culture. It existed 
before the Middle Ages began and it continued to exist after they had ended. The 
term "the middle ages" is itself derived from the false view of history of which I 
have been speaking— the view that there was a kind of cultural vacuum of a 
thousand years or more between two isolated peaks of creative achievement. And 
no less misleading is the opposite view of the Catholic romantics who identified 
Christian and medieval culture and concentrated their attention on a single century, 
usually the thirteenth, and a single part of Christendom, usually France or 
Germany, as the perfect example of Christian civilization. 

But Christian culture is far more than this. It has been one of the four great world 
cultures on which the civilization of the modern world has been built. And in 

particular it is the historic basis of our own civilization, since it was through this 
Christian culture that the peoples and nations of the West were brought together 
and acquired a common consciousness and a sense of cultural and spiritual unity. 
Hence it is clear that without some understanding of this great cultural tradition 
which molded the life and thought of our ancestors for ten to fifteen centuries, we 
cannot understand our past and we shall become progressively alienated from our 
own spiritual inheritance, as in fact so much of our population is today. By the 
study of Christian culture we become conscious of our spiritual roots and 
integrated into the continuing life of the historic community of culture. 

One of the weaknesses of our education in the past has been due to our ignoring 
this historical dimension of Christian culture. Thus while the student may receive a 
thorough grounding in the principles of Thomist theology and ethics, there is a 
danger that this knowledge will remain in the sphere of theory and of textbooks, 
unless he is able to make some study of how these doctrines and these ethical 
values have in fact affected or failed to affect the way of life of Christian men and 

Of course the study of Christian culture presupposes that such influences have in 
fact existed throughout the course of history, a supposition which I have always 
believed to be generally accepted. But in fact I have found to my great surprise that 
it is just on this ground that Catholic educationalists have based their opposition to 
the idea of Christian culture and to the possibility of its study. 

These objections have been very vigorously expressed by Professor J. G. Lawler of 
St. Xavier College, Chicago, in his recently published book. The Catholic 
Dimension in Higher Educational] and since he represents in many ways the 
views of the avant garde of American Catholic educationalists, I think it is 
necessary to make some reply to his criticisms. 

Now Professor Lawler questions the use of the expression "Christian Culture," on 
account of the disassociation or fissure which has existed between Christian 
teaching and the practice of Christians, for he believes that we should not apply 
"the attribute Christian to any human undertaking not directly sanctioned by 
revealed truth or religious authority."[2] Professor Lawler justifies this drastic 
rejection of the possibility of any Christian culture by appealing to Newman's 
denial of the possibility of a Christian literature in his Discourse on the Duties of 
the Church towards Knowledge. Here Newman himself is stating an extreme 
position but Professor Lawler is not content with this. He rewrites the whole 
passage, substituting the word "culture" for "literature" so as to make Newman 
responsible for his repudiation of Christian culture. This is hardly fair to the 
memory of a great Catholic who devoted his life, as he himself said, to resisting the 
religious Liberalism which denied the bond between religion and society and was 

destroying all over Europe the Christian character of "that goodly framework of 
society which is the creation of Christianity." 

But the fact is that Professor Lawler is quite unaware of Christian culture as a 
living historical reality. He conceives it as an intellectual ideal—the idea of a 
perfect Christian society—and since such a society has never existed, he is 
indignant with anyone who professes to find such an ideal in the bloody and 
barbarous past. 

For my part, I have always attempted to make it perfectly clear in my writings that 
I use the word "culture," not as an intellectual ideal, but in the sense in which it is 
defined and used by the social sciences and especially by anthropology— that is to 
say, a culture is essentially a social process which may be studied historically or 
sociologically. It is the way of life of a society or a group of societies— not merely 
their economics and their technology, but even more a moral order, for what holds 
a society together are the common values, the common standards and the common 
laws which make them in some sense a spiritual community. 

A Christian culture is this, but more than this. It is a Christian way of life— a 
spiritual order by which the Christian faith and Christian morality leaven human 
society. With Christianity a new dynamic principle enters the life of humanity and 
reorganizes it round a new spiritual center and toward a new supernatural end. This 
principle is social as well as individual. It is embodied in the life of an organized 
community—the Catholic Church— and it extends its influence to every aspect of 
human life and every form of social activity. The elements of human society- 
family, economic association, city and state— remain the same, but in proportion as 
they come under the influence of the higher spiritual order, they are directed to new 

Thus the contribution of Christianity to culture is not merely the addition of a 
religious element; it is a process of re-creation which transforms the whole 
character of the social organism. It breaks down the closed self-centered world of 
secularist culture and gives human society a new spiritual purpose which 
transcends the conflicting interests of individual and class and race. Thus it 
provides the psychological motive for the creation of a genuinely universal culture 
from which no class or race is excluded. 

If this is so, it may be asked. How does the study of Christian culture differ from 
the life of the Church? Clearly the two studies are intimately related, and it may 
even be said that they deal with the same subject from different points of view. But 
while the theologian studies it from above in the light of revelation— ex parte Dei— 
the student of Christian culture studies it from below in the light of history— ex 
parte hominis. The theologian studies the whole economy of redemption and 

shows how human nature is restored and transfigured by the action of divine grace 
through the Church and the Sacraments. The student of Christian culture studies 
this leavening process on the human plane. He is concerned not so much with the 
inner nature of the Christian way of life as with its external expression: not that the 
two can be completely separated, any more than we can separate the performance 
of the liturgy from the spirit of prayer or from the sacrament. But the student of 
Christian culture is primarily concerned with the human material which is 
subjected to the leavening process. 

This material already possesses cultural form, so that the student of Christian 
culture is also obliged to study the pre-Christian or non-Christian cultures with 
which it is intermingled. Thus he has three different levels or fields of study: (1) 
the Christian way of life, which is the field of study he shares with the theologian; 
(2) the preexisting or co-existing forms of human culture, which is the field he 
shares with the anthropologist and the historian; and (3) the interaction of the two 
which produces the concrete historical reality of Christendom or Christian culture, 
which is his own specific field of study. 

Christendom, the historical reality of Christian culture as a world movement, was 
created by the conversion of Hellenistic Roman culture to Christianity and its 
diffusion to the peoples of the West. Thus, it was a kind of "super-culture" which 
absorbed and overlaid a large number of cultures of various degrees of importance. 
In order to understand it, we must first study the Jewish-Christian tradition which 
is the specific study of theologians, but which must here be seen historically and 
dynamically as the development of the spiritual tradition of the Old and New 
Testaments, which contains the sacred history of the People of God-the old and 
the new Israel. 

The study of the first community, through the Old Testament and the history of 
Judaism, is of great value in that it provides a classical example of a pure religious 
culture in which all the aspects of culture -sociological, political, legal, moral, 
ritual, and theological—are united in one all-embracing sacred order. It is of course 
easy to find other examples of this unification of standards in primitive cultures, 
but they are remote from our own historical experience, whereas in the case of the 
religion of Israel, it is directly related through the biblical tradition of our own 
Christian culture, which is the object of our study. 

This kind of historical relativism or "relatedness" is very valuable as against the 
metaphysical relativism which denies all transcendent values to theology and 
philosophy. Unfortunately, neither the theologians nor the sociologists seem to 
recognize this vital distinction. Thus there is a great danger in the United States 
that while secular education is being pushed toward an extreme metaphysical 
relativism by sociology and psychology, Catholic education is being pushed in the 

opposite direction toward a metaphysical absolutism so that you will get two 
mutually exclusive and incomprehensible universes of discourse. 

What is so dangerous about this particular kind of metaphysical education is that it 
leaves so little room for criticism. The student is bound to take Thomism largely on 
faith since there is no competition of rival schools, as in the medieval university, 
and so one is in danger of having a solid monolithic structure of infallible 
knowledge which includes philosophy as well as theology and treats the two as 
coequal, so that Catholic education becomes identified with an authoritarian 
ideology, like Marxism. Thus the distinction between theology and ideology 
becomes blurred. It may not be so in practice, but it may become a real danger 
unless students have a deep grounding in culture, either literary or historical. 

Now as anthropology and literature are the studies which offer a means of 
understanding on the secular side, the study of Christian culture could perform a 
similar function for Catholics, if only we had the teachers to develop it. Therefore 
the first priority must be to find a number of individuals who are interested in 
culture studies, and to enlist their support for the development of the study of 
Christian culture. 

Since theology and philosophy are considered the basic principles of unity for 
Catholic higher education in America, the kind of Christian culture study here 
proposed may meet with opposition from theologians and philosophers as well as 
from specialists and utilitarians. I certainly do not wish to reduce the role of 
theology in education. One must remember, however, that systematic theology has 
hitherto been, in Europe, exclusively a clerical subject—a specialized discipline for 
priests, and that the layman received his theology at second hand from the priest in 
the church, not from the university. My idea has been that a theological element 
can be introduced on this level through the study of Christian culture and of the 
theological and spiritual literature of the age which is being dealt with. 

At the same time the theology or religious instruction course, which forms part of 
the Catholic college curriculum in America, would be strengthened and enriched 
by the study of positive theology, which is an essential part of the Christian culture 
program. The systematic study of Christian doctrine only stands to gain by the 
insight imparted by a study of the historical development of Christian culture. Of 
course no one would suggest that you can teach an undergraduate religious 
doctrine without any positive theology. He must at least know something about the 
Bible, the liturgy, the creeds, and the church councils, and the great figures such as 
Athanasius and Augustine and Thomas. But the study of Christian culture would 
extend this element very considerably and would also give the student some notion 
of other possibilities and movements of which the ordinary student learns nothing 
at present. This is surely pure gain for the religious educator. It would enable him 

to assume a certain level of positive knowledge in his students and it would give 
him more time to devote to systematic theology and to apologetics. The latter 
especially will gain enormously by the higher standard of historical knowledge 
which the student of Christian culture will possess. 

Thus Christian culture study is additional to and not in substitution for the 
professional and systematic study of theology. After all, this has been the Catholic 
educational tradition hitherto. Theology was the crown of the system, not the 
foundation, and the liberal arts had an independent origin, being in fact taken over 
bodily from the old classical education. 

It must be clear from what I have already said that there can be no question of 
confining the study of Christian culture to a single period, for it extends over the 
whole course of Christian history—and even behind it, to its historic and 
providential preparation in the Old Testament. 

The culture of the later Middle Ages was only one of the five or six successive 
ages of Christian culture, each of which had its own mission and vocation and 
deserves to be studied for its own sake as I have explained at greater length in my 
essay on "The Six Ages of the Church."[3] Of course it is not possible, or hardly 
possible, for the student to study all of these. He can choose whichever of them is 
best adapted to his own needs and interests. But each of them provides an equally 
good field for study—not because they are equal from the point of view of material 
and intellectual culture— but because in each we see how Christianity has extended 
into vital relations with some particular social world and has changed it by creating 
a new pattern of Christian life according to the conditions of this particular age and 
society. Each has its own record of achievement and failure and each has played its 
part in the world mission of the Church, the progressive transformation of 
humanity by the new principle of divine life which was brought into the world by 
the Incarnation and which will continue its work through the whole course of 
human history until the end of time. 

1 The Newman Press, 1959. 

2 Op. cit, pp. 211, 215. 

3 In The Historic Reality of Christian Culture (Harper & Bros., 1960), pp. 47-59. 


"Cultural Polarity and Religious Schism," from Chapter IV, 
Part II of The Judgment of the Nations (1942); reprinted in 
Dynamics of World History (1958), pp. 80-89. 

It may be said that the collaboration of Christians on the basis 
of fundamental principles is impossible, because it ignores the 
real nature of our disagreement. Granted that Catholics, Angli- 
cans, Orthodox, Lutherans and Free Churchmen all believe in 
the Church of the Living God as the pillar and ground of the 
truth, the fact remains that it is not the same Church in an ob- 
jective, institutional sense that is the object of this faith. We see 
this most clearly in the case of Catholics and Orthodox. Here are 
two perfectly concrete and definite, organized spiritual societies 
which agree to a remarkable extent in their conception of their 
nature and office, but which are mutually exclusive, so that it 
would seem that the more profound is their belief in "the 
Church," the more complete is their separation from one 
another. In the case of the Protestant denominations and espe- 
cially the Free Churches, the situation is of course far less clearly 
defined, owing to the complete disappearance of structural and 
intellectual unity. Nevertheless it is conceivable that reaction 
against the fissiparous tendency of Protestantism, of which re- 
action the Ecumenical Movement is the most striking example, 
might result in the creation of a reunited Protestant Christen- 
dom, which would stand over against the Catholic Church, in 
the same way that Eastern Orthodoxy has done in the past. 

[81] Thus we are brought up once more against the fundamental 
problem of Christian disunity which is the problem of schism. 
In practice this problem is so closely associated with that of 
heresy, i.e. difference of religious belief, that they are apt to be 
confused with one another. But it is nevertheless important to 
distinguish them carefully, and to consider the nature of schism 
in itself, for I believe that it is in the question of schism rather 
than that of heresy that the key to the problem of the disunity 
of Christendom is to be found. For heresy as a rule is not the 
cause of schism but an excuse for it, or rather a rationalization of 
it. Behind every heresy lies some kind of social conflict, and it 
is only by the resolution of this conflict that unity can be restored. 

In order to illustrate what I mean I would take as an example 
the schism between the Byzantine and the Armenian churches, 
for that controversy is sufficiently remote for us to treat it in a 
completely impartial spirit. Here the theological issues at stake 
were the Monophysite heresy and the decrees of the council of 
Chalcedon; matters of the highest importance which involved 
the most profound and subtle problems of theological science. 
Yet even from the beginning it is obvious that the passions which 
filled the streets of Alexandria with tumult and bloodshed and 
set bishops fighting like wild animals were not inspired by a pure 
desire for theological truth or even by purely religious motives of 
any kind. It was a spirit of faction which used theological slogans, 
but which drew its real force from the same kind of motive which 
causes political strife or even war and revolution. 

And when we leave the primary conflict at Alexandria and 
Ephesus and come to its secondary results in Armenia or Abys- 
sinia, it is obvious that the theological element has become prac- 
tically negligible, and the real conflict is one of national feeling. 
Take as an example the rubric, which used to appear in the 
Greek liturgy for the week before Septuagesima Sunday and 
which I quoted in The Making of Europe: "On this day the 
thrice cursed Armenians begin their blasphemous fast which they 
call artziburion, but we eat cheese and eggs in order to refute 
their heresy." Here, it seems to me, we can see in an almost pure 
state the spirit which causes religious dissension. To put it crudely, 
[82] it means that the Greeks thought the Armenians beastly 
people, who were sure to be wrong whatever they did. And where 
such a spirit reigns, what could be hoped for from theological 
discussions? The same spirit which made the eating of cheese 
a confutation of Armenian depravity would never have any diffi- 
culty in finding some theological expression, and if it had not 
been the doctrine of the Incarnation, then something else would 
have served just as well. 

Now it is easy for us to condemn the Greeks and the Armenians, 
because we belong to a different world, and if we fast at all, we 
find it difficult to understand how people can attach such enor- 
mous importance to the questions of exactly when and how the 

fast is made. But can we be sure that the same spirit is not just 
as strong today, though it takes quite different forms? I remem- 
ber, years ago, reading a story of an eminent Nonconformist di- 
vine whose name I have forgotten, which struck me as an example 
of this. He had been on a visit to Assisi and was immensely im- 
pressed with the story of Saint Francis and the mediaeval art in 
which it is expressed. But one evening, as he was visiting the 
lower church, he happened to come across a friar and a group 
of peasant women making the Stations of the Cross and singing 
one of those mournful traditional chants which are so different 
from our English hymn tunes, and strike one as half Oriental. 
And suddenly he experienced a violent revulsion of feeling and 
said to himself: "This religion is not my religion and this God is 
not the God that I worship." 

This seems to me a perfect instance of what I have in mind 
because the intellectual or theological motive is entirely absent. 
It is not as though he jibbed at Mariolotry or the pomp of a High 
Mass. He was revolted by the very thing in Italy for which Evan- 
gelical Nonconformity has stood in England, a spontaneous 
manifestation of popular Christocentric devotion. And what up- 
set him was not any divergence of theological views but merely 
the alien setting and the different cultural tradition which sepa- 
rate the world of the Italian peasant from that of the well-to-do, 
middle-class Englishman. 

There is no need to labour the point. It was realized only too 
[83] forcibly by the writers and thinkers of the Enlightenment from 
Bayle to Gibbon and Thomas Paine, and it was largely respons- 
ible for the reaction against orthodoxy in the eighteenth century. 
But, unfortunately, its use as a weapon against revealed religion 
has tended to blind orthodox apologetics to its real significance. 
History has shown that no true solution is to be found in the 
direction which the eighteenth-century Enlightenment took, i.e., 
by constructing a purely rational philosophy of religion based on 
the abstract generalities that are common to all forms of religion. 
For deism is nothing but the ghost of religion which haunts 
the grave of dead faith and lost hope. Any real religion must 
recognize, on the one hand, the objective character of religious 
truth — and hence the necessity of a theology — and on the other, 

the need for religion to embody itself in concrete forms appro- 
priate to the national character and the cultural tradition of the 
people. It is right that Italian peasants and the English shop- 
keepers should express their feelings in different forms; what is 
wrong is that they should worship different gods or should 
regard each other as separated from the mind of Christ and the 
body of the Church because they speak a different language and 
respond to different emotional stimuli. In other words: difference 
of rite ought not to involve differences of faith. 

Now it is hardly necessary to point out the bearing that this 
has on the problem of the reunion of Catholic and Protestant 
Europe. To the average Protestant, Catholicism is not the re- 
ligion of Saint Thomas and Saint Francis de Sales and Bossuet; 
it is the religion of Wops and Dagoes who worship the images 
of the Madonna and do whatever their priests tell them. And 
the same is true of the average Catholic, mutatis mutandis. 

Underlying the theological issues that divide Catholicism and 
Protestantism there is the great cultural schism between North- 
ern and Southern Europe which would still have existed if Chris- 
tianity never had existed, but which, when it exists, inevitably 
translates itself into religious terms. 

Yet this division is a natural one which cannot be condemned 
as necessarily evil since it is part of the historical process. If it 
had been possible to keep life to a dead level of uniformity, in 
[84] which Englishmen and Spaniards, Frenchmen and Germans, 
were all alike, conditions might be more favourable to religious 
unity, but European civilization would have been immensely 
poorer and less vital, and its religious life would probably have 
been impoverished and devitalized as well. It is the besetting 
sin of the idealist to sacrifice reality to his ideals; to reject life 
because it fails to come up to his ideal; and this vice is just as 
prevalent among religious idealists as secular ones. If we condemn 
the principle of diversity or polarity in history, and demand an 
abstract uniform civilization which will obviate the risk of wars 
and religious schisms, we are offending against life in the same 
way as though we condemned the difference of the sexes, as many 
heretics actually have done, because it leads to immorality. And 

this is not a bad parallel, because the polarity or duality of culture 
of which I have spoken is but an example of the universal rhythm 
of life which finds its most striking expression in the division of 
the sexes. Of course I do not mean to say that the duality of 
culture is an absolute, fixed, unalterable law; it is rather a tend- 
ency which acts differently in different societies and in different 
stages of the development of a single society. But this is a tend- 
ency which is always present and which seems to become more 
clearly defined when social life and culture is most vital and 
creative, as, for example, at the time of the Renaissance. 

Any vital point in the life of society may become the centre of 
such a polarization, and where a culture has an exceptionally 
rigid organization, as in the Byzantine empire, the principle of 
duality may find expression in an apparently arbitrary division, 
like those of the Circus factions —the Blues and the Greens — 
which played so important a part in the social life of Constanti- 
nople. As a rule however, race and religion are the vital points 
around which the opposing forces in society coalesce. Thus we 
see how the Ionian and Dorian strains form the two opposite 
poles of Greek civilization and finally become defined in the con- 
flict between Athens and Sparta which tore Greece asunder in 
the fifth century B.C. 

Sometimes the two types of motive coalesce and reinforce one 
another, as in Ireland, where the cause of religion and race be- 
[85] came identified, so that the opposition between Celt and 
Anglo-Saxon finds religious expression in the opposition of 
Catholic and Protestant. We find a similar state of things in 
Poland, where it was twofold, and showed itself in the conflict of 
Catholic Pole and Orthodox Russian in the East, while in the 
South, where the conflict was a purely national one between 
Catholic Pole and Catholic Austrian, feeling was less intense and 
the cultural opposition less strongly marked. On the other hand 
in Bohemia at an earlier period, where the opposition of Czech 
and German also manifested itself in a religious form, Slav na- 
tionalism took an heretical form and the German ascendancy 
was identified with the cause of the Church. 

But, in addition to these cases, where the principle of social 

polarity is exemplified in its crudest form, we have a more subtle 
kind of socio-religious polarity which develops inside the unified 
national society and within the boundaries of a common religious 
tradition. A most striking example of this is to be found in Eng- 
land, where the tension of opposing social forces found expres- 
sion in the religious opposition between the Established and the 
Nonconformist Churches. At first sight it may seem as though 
the diversity and disunity of Nonconformity are inconsistent 
with what I have said about religious schism as an expression of 
duality of culture and the tendency of social forces to converge 
round two opposite poles. But if we leave aside the theological 
aspect of Nonconformity and concentrate our attention on its 
social character, we shall see that the opposition of Church and 
Chapel, of conformity and dissent has an importance in the 
life of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English village or 
small town which far outweighs the differences between the va- 
rious Nonconformist sects. And to some extent at least this re- 
ligious opposition forms a spiritual background or foundation 
for the political division between the great English parties, so 
that in many parts of England it was taken for granted that a 
Nonconformist would be a good Liberal and a Churchman 
would be a good Conservative. It is true that this does not hold 
good of the early period of Methodism, but Methodism arose at 
a time when the Whigs represented the established social order, 
[86] and it owes its importance to the fact that it made its chief 
appeal to the disenfranchised classes to whom the political parties 
of the day made no direct appeal. 

But, whatever view we may take of the causes of any particular 
schism and the social significance of particular religious move- 
ments, there can, I think, be no question but that in the history 
of Christendom from the Patristic period down to modern times, 
heresy and schism have derived their main impulse from soci- 
ological causes, so that a statesman who found a way to satisfy 
the national aspirations of the Czechs in the fifteenth century, 
or those of the Egyptians in the fifth, would have done more to 
reduce the centrifugal force of the Hussite or the Monophysite 
movements than a theologian who made the most brilliant and 
convincing defense of Communion in One Kind or of the doc- 
trine of the two natures of Christ. Whereas it is very doubtful if 

the converse is true, for even if the Egyptians had accepted the 
doctrine of Chalcedon, they would have found some other 
ground of division so long as the sociological motive for division 
remained unaltered. 

What bearing has all this on the problem of Reunion as it 
exists today? It would be a profound mistake to conclude that 
because religious disunion in the past has been based on social 
and political causes, we must accept it in a spirit of fatalism, as 
an evil which cannot be remedied except by political or economic 
means. The cause of Christian unity can best be served neither 
by religious controversy nor by political action, but by the theo- 
logical virtues: faith, hope and charity. And these virtues must 
be applied both in the intellectual and religious spheres. It is, 
above all, necessary to free the religious issue of all the extraneous 
motives that take their rise in unconscious social conflicts, for if 
we can do this we shall deprive the spirit of schism of its dynamic 
force. If we can understand the reason of our instinctive antip- 
athy to other religious bodies, we shall find that the purely re- 
ligious and theological obstacles to reunion became less formi- 
dable and more easy to remove. But so long as the unconscious 
element of social conflict remains unresolved, religion is at the 
mercy of the blind forces of hatred and suspicion which may 
[87] assume really pathological forms. If it seems that this is an ex- 
aggeration, you have only to look back at our own past and con- 
sider the history of the Gordon Riots or the Popish Plot. 

Hence the first and greatest step toward religious unity is an 
internal and spiritual one: the purging of the mind from the 
lower motives which may contaminate our faith. For in the vast 
majority of cases the sin of schism does not arise from a con- 
scious intention to separate oneself from the true Church, but 
from allowing the mind to become so occupied and clouded by 
instinctive enmities or oppositions that we can no longer see 
spiritual issues clearly, and our religious attitude becomes de- 
termined by forces that are not religious at all. 

It is easy enough to see, in the fifteenth century, for example, 
how vested interests and material motives caused the leaders 
both of Church and State to oppose necessary reforms, but it is 

no less evident that the passion of revolt that drove a great re- 
ligious leader like Martin Luther into schism and heresy was not 
purely religious in origin, but was the outcome of a spiritual 
conflict in which religious motives were hopelessly confused, so 
that if Luther had not been such a "psychic" person, to use the 
word in Saint Paul's sense as well as the modern one, he would 
have been able to judge the deep things of God as a spiritual 
man: he would still have been a reformer without becoming an 

When we turn to the English Reformation, the influence of 
the non-religious factors in the schism is so obvious that there 
is no need to insist on it. It was to a great extent a movement of 
the State against the Church, and the driving force behind it 
was the awakening of national consciousness and the self-asser- 
tion of national culture. Hence the religious issue became so 
identified with the national cause that Catholicism became the 
representative of all the forces that were hostile to nationality, 
and every Catholic was regarded as a bad Englishman and a dis- 
loyal subject. To the average Englishman the typical Catholic 
was not Thomas More but Guy Fawkes, and the celebration of 
the Gunpowder Treason became a kind of primitive ritual ex- 
[88] pression of the popular detestation of the hereditary enemy of 
the tribe. 

This identification of religion and nationality endured for 
more than two hundred years, and even today it remains as a 
subconscious prejudice at the back of men's minds. But it has 
inevitably tended to diminish with the growth of modern secular 
civilization. There is no longer any need for nationalism or 
class feeling or economic motives to disguise themselves in the 
dress of religion, for they have become the conscious and dom- 
inant forces in social life. The ideologies which today form the 
opposite poles of social tension are not religious, but political, 
national and economic ones, which have cut across and largely 
obliterated the older socio-religious divisions which separated 
Catholic and Protestant Europe. 

Here it seems to me that the present age is more favourable to 
the cause of unity than any time since the Middle Ages, For, if 

Christianity becomes a minority religion, if it is threatened by 
hostility and persecution, then the common cause of Christian- 
ity becomes a reality and not merely a phrase, and there is a 
centre round which the scattered forces of Christendom can 
rally and reorganize. We must remember that behind the natural 
process of social conflict and tension which runs through history 
there is a deeper law of spiritual duality and polarization which 
is expressed in the teaching of the Gospel on the opposition of 
the World and the Kingdom of God and in Saint Augustine's 
doctrine of the two cities Babylon and Jerusalem whose conflict 
runs through all history and gives it its ultimate significance. 

Thus when Christians allow the conflicts and divisions of the 
natural man to transgress their bounds and permeate the religious 
sphere, the cause of God becomes obscured by doubts and divi- 
sions, and schism and heresies arise. But when the Church is 
faithful to its mission, it becomes the visible embodiment of this 
positive divine principle standing over against the eternal nega- 
tive of evil. 

I believe that the age of schism is passing and that the time 
has come when the divine principle of the Church's life will 
assert its attractive power, drawing all the living elements of 
[89] Christian life and thought into organic unity. For since Christ 
Is the Head of the Church and the Holy Spirit is the life of the 
Church, wherever there is faith in Christ and the Spirit of Christ 
there is the spirit of unity and the means of reunion. There- 
fore it is not necessary to talk much about the ways and means, 
for the ways of the Spirit are essentially mysterious and trans- 
cend human understanding. It may even be that the very 
strength of the forces that are gathering against the Church and 
against religion will make for unity by forcing Christians to- 
gether, as it were, in spite of themselves; or it may be that the 
Church will react positively to the situation by a fresh outpour- 
ing of the apostolic spirit, as Blessed Grignon de Montfort 
prophesied two centuries ago. 



A Note by John J. Mulloy 

from Dynamics of World History (1958), pp. 413-468 

IN considering the development of Christopher Dawson's thought 
over the span of thirty-five years which this volume encompasses, 
one is impressed by the remarkable continuity in fundamental 
conceptions with which he has approached the study of culture 
and world history. 

A significant example of this continuity is afforded by his con- 
ception of the nature of a civilization, as this is applied in criti- 
cism of Spengler in 1922 and of Toynbee in 1955. In both writers 
Dawson finds an oversimplification of the concept and a failure 
to appreciate the contributions which a civilization receives from 
the peoples of lower culture who are its neighbors or who may 
have been incorporated by it. 

First in 1922, speaking of the difficulties in which Spengler's 
theory of history results: 

"There is little room in Herr Spengler's scheme for cultural in- 
teraction and admixture, still less for the cooperation of several 
peoples in one civilization. . . . 

". . . All this results from Herr Speaker's oversimplification, 
which only allows him to take account of a single people in deal- 
ing with a particular civilization. In reality it is impossible to sim- 
plify to this degree any civilization except the most primitive 
ones. So long as a people exists it possesses a cultural tradition, 
and however depressed and passive this may seem in relation to 
the creative culture of the dominant people in a world civiliza- 
[414] tion, it is nevertheless capable of far-reaching influences and re- 

Thirty-three years later it is the same idea of the complexity of 
elements in a civilization which forms the basis for Dawson's 
criticism of Dr. Toynbee's view of history. And because of this 

complexity, the philosophers of history require the help of soci- 
ology and anthropology if they are to reach valid conclusions as to 
the nature and the historical development of the higher cultures. 

The fact is that a civilization of any but the most simple and 
archaic kind is a far more complex phenomenon than the phi- 
losophers of history have realized. No doubt it is always based on 
a particular original process of cultural creativity which is the 
work of a particular people. But at the same time it always tends 
to become a super-culture — an extended area of social communi- 
cation which dominates and absorbs other less advanced or less 
powerful cultures and unites them in an "oecumene," an interna- 
tional and intercultural society; and it is this extension of the area 
of communication that is the essential characteristic of civiliza- 
tion as distinguished from lower forms of culture. 

The higher civilizations usually represent a fusion of at least 
two independent traditions of culture, and while one of these is 
dominant and possibly more advanced, it is not enough to dis- 
miss the sub-culture as an internal proletariat, as Dr. Toynbee 
does, since the word "proletariat" denotes a class within a so- 
ciety and not a culture or sub-culture within a civilization. Hence 
I do not believe it is possible to study the high civilizations satis- 
factorily until we have succeeded in analyzing their different cul- 
tural components. In other words, the essential basis of the study 
of history must be, not just a comparative study of the higher 
civilizations, but a study of their constituent cultures, and here 
we must follow, not the grand synoptic method of the philoso- 
phers of history, but the more laborious and meticulous scientific 
technique of the social anthropologists. 2 

While this continuity in Dawson's thought is most striking, as 
the above quotations indicate, there has at the same time taken 

1 See above, "Oswald Spengler and the Life of Civilizations," pp. 381, 

2 See above, "Arnold Toynbee and the Study of History," pp. 402-3. 

[415] place a process of development by which his earlier views have 
been deepened and broadened so as to give greater attention to 

matters previously passed over without much comment. The 
classification of cultures and the position of language within cul- 
ture are two problems to which Mr. Dawson has recently given 
considerable study (we discuss his present view of language in a 
later part of this essay); but possibly the most impressive instance 
of development in Dawson's sociology is found in his attitude 
toward the importance of the intellectual element in a supercul- 
ture or civilization. 

In the criticism of Toynbee's views which we have just quoted, 
it will be observed that Dawson sees the extension of the area of 
communication as the essential feature by which a civilization is 
distinguished from lower forms of culture. Now normally it is by 
the geographic expansion of a civilization's military power or 
political control that such extension in the area of communica- 
tion takes place. How then shall we evaluate the fact of geographic 
expansion as a sign that a civilization is losing its cultural quality 
and degenerating into mere cosmopolitanism, or as an indication 
that it has been able to communicate its basic values and outlook 
on life to other peoples? 

There is undoubtedly something to be said for both of these 
interpretations of the geographic expansion of a culture, and no 
doubt the particular explanation found valid will differ with the 
circumstances of each case. (We should note, however, that in 
Dr. Toynbee's view, "The history of almost every civilization 
furnishes examples of geographical expansion coinciding with 
deterioration in quality." And again, "More often geographical 
expansion is a concomitant of real decline and coincides with a 
'time of troubles' or a universal state — both of them stages of 
decline and disintegration." 3 And the reason for this is that geo- 
graphic expansion is closely connected with militarism, which 
Toynbee sees as "the commonest cause of the breakdowns of 
civilizations. "4 

3 Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History (Somervell abridgement, Oxford, 
1946), pp.191, 190. 

4 Ibid., p. 190. 

[416] But what is significant in relation to the changes in Dawson's 

thought on this question is the fact that in his earlier essays in 
the 1920(5), he tended to regard the geographic expansion of a cul- 
ture as achieved mostly or primarily at the expense of cultural 
quality, while in his recent writings on culture in the 1950's he is 
inclined to emphasize the achievement by which a civilization 
has opened up new areas of communication and made its own 
values part of the cultural outlook of other peoples. 

Thus, in the fifth essay in the present volume (first published 
in 1924), he refers to the Hellenistic superculture and its geo- 
graphic expansion into Asia as "a mechanical and external crea- 
tion, compared with the vital and internal impulse that created 
the Greek City- State." He sees it as combining superficial and 
abstract progress with a vital decline in the quality of the culture 
being imparted, so that "the vivid and highly differentiated life 
of the regional city-state" faded away "into a formless, cosmopoli- 
tan society, with no roots in the past and no contact with a par- 
ticular region, a society which was common to the great cities 
everywhere from Mesopotamia to the Bay of Naples." 5 

In his observations of the last few years, while not rejecting 
his analysis of the causes of the decline of the Greek city-states, 
Mr, Dawson takes a somewhat different view of the character of 
Hellenistic civilization. Precisely because it was capable of being 
taught to other peoples not of Greek origin, the Hellenistic super- 
culture possessed an inner life of its own which allowed it to 
transcend the particular fate of decline or breakdown which 
might come upon the regional city-states where Hellenism had its 
origin. As he remarks on this point in a letter to the present writer 
(written January 18, 1955): 

"With regard to the superculture and the organic culture, I 
have changed my views to some extent of late years and would 
qualify considerably what I wrote on the Hellenistic culture in 
Progress and Religion [parts of this fifth essay we have quoted 
from were later incorporated into this work]. It is quite true, as 
I say in Progress and Religion, that the Hellenic culture declined 

5 Cf. above, pp. 58, 60. 

[417] through the withering away of its organic substratum in the re- 
gional cultures. (The case of Hellenism is unique, because it is 
the only culture I know of in which the regional unit, the polis, 
also became the organ of the higher culture.) 

"On the other hand, I entirely disagree with Toynbee about 
geographical expansion coinciding normally with cultural de- 
cline. The normal process is quite the opposite, e.g. the great age 
of medieval culture was also the age of the territorial expansion of 
the Franco-Norman culture, the great age of Spanish culture was 
the age of Spanish territorial expansion and the latter ceased be- 
fore the former by a generation or two. 

"So too with Western European culture generally, the age of 
expansion was the age of cultural achievement. So again with 

Speaking of the question of whether supercultures are subject 
to growth and decay he seemed to imply that the Hellenistic 
superculture was, in his original criticism of it in the 1920's Mr. 
Dawson defines his position as follows: 

"I would say that Athens experienced a breakdown then [i.e. the 
fourth century B.C.], but by no means Hellenism itself. But on the 
whole I do not believe that civilizations have life-cycles. Peoples 
have, and if a culture is bound up with a people, then it also must- 
But in so far as a civilization becomes a superculture and is trans- 
mitted to an indefinite number of peoples, its development may 
transcend this cycle." 

And again, in the same letter as the above passage (January 1, 

"A superculture which is a world civilization, like Hellenism, 
Christendom and Islam, is potentially universal and eternal. It 
ends only when it is destroyed by atom bombs or when it is ab- 
sorbed by another world civilization greater than itself." 

At a further point in this letter of January 1, 1955 he specifically 
dissociates his views on the organic and intellectual elements in a 
civilization from the position on this matter held by Spengler: 

"I think Spengler quite realized the existence of these universal 
cultures which are civilizations, but he disliked them. He thought 

[418] that when a culture is taught it becomes dead, whereas I should 
say that when a culture can be transmitted by teaching, it attains 
a higher level of existence." 

It should be noted that Spengler's use of the term civilization 
differs from that of Dawson, since Spengler applies it to the last 
phase of a culture, which he identifies as a period of petrifaction 
and death, when the creative impulse of the people that has cre- 
ated the original culture has played itself out; while Dawson 
thinks of a civilization as transcending the limitations of the re- 
gional culture in which it had its origin and uniting many peoples 
in a new supercultural unity. For Dawson, this last phase of a cul- 
ture, which Spengler holds in such low esteem, is a time of the 
greatest seminal importance for the future; for it is precisely then 
that a culture acquires "new contacts and opportunities for ex- 
pression," and during this "decisive period of intercourse and 
fusion" sets an indelible character upon the daughter-cultures 
that are being formed within it. 6 

Finally, we should observe that Dawson's present view on the 
intellectual element in a civilization involves a high regard for 
education in intercultural contacts, since it is by the process of 
teaching its fundamental values to other peoples that a civiliza- 
tion achieves a relative universality, that is, transcends the boun- 
daries of its region of origin. 

Since the publication in 1948 of his last volume specifically de- 
voted to analysis of culture (the first series of Gifford Lectures, 
Religion and Culture), Mr. Dawson's thought has been explor- 
ing new trails along a number of lines, including the problem of 
proper classification of cultures: how one is to distinguish, for 
example, subcultures from regional cultures, and these again from 
lational cultures and civilizations. In his correspondence with 
he present writer, which may eventually be published, these and 
other matters have been given critical examination, and the re- 
ult has been an extension in the area of Dawson's sociological 

6 See above, p. 386. For a more detailed statement of these 
differences, see the entire essay on "Oswald Spengler and the 
Life of Civilizations," pp 374-89. 

[419] thought and a more precise statement of the principles it in- 

Sociology and History 

As we have noted above, Dawson's interest in the wider per- 
spectives of world history is balanced by a regard for the smaller 
and more local factors which enter into movements of historical 
change the structure of the primary social unit, the relation of 
the regional group to its environment, the effect of the region 
upon a people's view of life, and the constituent contributions of 
several different regional peoples to the wider cultural unities 
called civilizations. His ultimate goal may be to show the rela- 
tionship of these broader cultural unities to one another in the 
movement of world history but he believes this relationship can- 
not be understood without an examination of these facts which 
are usually considered the province of sociology and anthropology 
disciplines where social change is studied on a more limited 
level than that of the cultural historian. 

His concern for the first of these factors the primary social 
unit is evidenced in certain themes which run as a connecting 
thread throughout most of his works of historical analysis. One 
of these is the influence exercised upon culture by peasant and 
by tribal societies, both in themselves and in their interaction 
with the higher culture of the city. For example, in Dawson's view 
the Archaic civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia result 
from and are conditioned by the ethos of the peasant society, 
which underlay their greatest achievements. 7 Nor can the classical 
civilizations of Greece and Rome be understood, he maintains, 
without seeing them as the union of the older eity civilization of 
the East with the tribal structure of the barbarian war bands 
which invaded the Mediterranean area toward the end of the 
second millennium B.C. 8 And, as a final example, medieval cul- 
ture is seen as the offspring of the union of the classical culture 

7 See Chapters V, VI, and VII in The Age of the Gods. 

8 See above, "The Origins of Classical Civilization," pp. 148-55. 

[420] of the Mediterranean cities with the tribal cultures of Northern 
Europe, brought about through the agency of the Church. 

Mr. Dawson's continuing interest in the primary social unit 
and its influence upon cultural development is shown in a recent 
letter where he comments upon the studies of the peasant village 
in different parts of the world now being made by contributors to 
The American Anthropologist. 

"These studies strengthen my conviction on the importance of 
the village as the primary unit of culture and they also show how 
the higher cultures rest on different types of village society, though 
it is not dear whether the difference between the higher cul- 
tures can be explained by the difference between the primary 
units or whether the opposite is the case, 

"These studies also appear to show certain general differences 
between the European or Northwest European village and those 
of Asia and Africa. In the latter the village seems to form part of 
a wider kinship group, that is to say, that there is a strong tribal 
element still surviving in Asiatic and African societies which has 
disappeared in Europe, save in a few exceptional regions. I won- 
der whether this disappearance of the wider kinship group in 
Europe is due to exceptional development of the monogamous 
family as the foundation of society." (Letter of September 7, 

The importance of physical environment in influencing the 
culture and social development of a people is another key prin- 
ciple which Dawson as a cultural historian holds in common with 
the anthropologists. One instance of his recognition of the in- 
fluence of the region is found in his ascribing the diversity of the 
European cultural development to the nature of the European 
continent and its particular geographic construction innumer- 
able valleys and peninsulas shut off from one another by moun- 
tains but open to intercourse by sea. As a result, "The sea ways 
have been the high road of European civilization, for they alone 
have rendered possible the combination of regional independence 
with the stimulus of commercial intercourse and mutual influ- 

9 See The Making of Europe, especially Chapters V and XI; also Chapter 
IV for Dawson's analysis of tribal society and culture. 

ence to which Europe owes the richness and variety of its cul- 
tural life." 10 

On the other hand, when a people loses contact with the region 
it is occupying, this has usually seemed to Dawson a portent of 
cultural decline. For the particularism of a local society is at the 
same time a means of nourishing the culture by a contact with 
the realities of nature. One example of a society's loss of regional 
roots and their replacement by cosmopolitanism is provided by 
the decline of the Greek city-states on the mainland of Greece 
in the fourth and third centuries B.C.; and another by the fate of 
Moslem Spain in the tenth and eleventh centuries of the Chris- 
tian era. Of the latter development Dawson observes (and his 
analysis recalls his description of the decline of the Greek city- 
states which we discussed earlier in this Note): 

"Unfortunately Moslem Spain, in spite of its high civilization 
was based on insecure social foundations, and the very age which 
produced so brilliant a flowering of intellectual culture was also 
the age of its political decline and fall The Moslem State in 
Spain no less than in Egypt and Mesopotamia was an artificial 
creation which had no organic relation to the life of the people 
and rested its power on mercenary troops and on the class of 
slaves and freedmcn from which most of its servants and officials 
were drawn. . . . 

"This premature blighting of the brilliant civilisation of Moslem 
Spain is typical of the fate of this (Islamic) Mediterranean world 
as a whole. Everywhere we find the same wealth of material and 
intellectual culture and the same lack of social vitality or free 
political activity." 11 

The effects of occupation and geographic environment upon 
the world view or religious outlook of the less advanced peoples 
have often been recognised by anthropologists; and one of the 
chief tasks Dawson undertook in The Age of the Gods was to 
show how the difference between the way of life of the peasant 

10 The Age of the Gods, p. 170. 

11 Medieval Essays, pp. 127, 130. For comparison with this passage, see 
above, "Progress and Decay In Ancient and Modern Civilization," Dawson's 
analysis of the decline of Greece, pp. 59 ff. 

[422] and that of the pastoral nomad had corresponding effects upon 
their approach to the supernatural. However, in Dawson's view 
not even the world religions have wholly transcended the limits 
of the geographic region where they had their origin, and certain 
psychological orientations which they assume have to be related 
to the experience of the regional people among whom the re- 
ligion had its beginnings. 

Thus, speaking of the desert as one of the forces which influ- 
enced the development of Semitic religion in the direction of 
Prophecy more than of Priesthood (we may assume the primary 
reference here is to Islam and perhaps to Judaism), he points out: 

"In contrast to the Greeks and to the peoples who created the 
archaic culture, the Semitic peoples in historic times were not 
deeply concerned with the problem of the order of nature. They 
saw the world in a more primitive fashion as a battlefield of con- 
tending forces of superhuman powers which had to be placated 
and obeyed rather than controlled and understood. The Semitic 
background was not the world of the Mediterranean where the 
gods are the friends of man and crown his labour with the vine 
and the olive, but the world of the desert in which man exists 
only on sufferance and is always at the mercy of alien powers. In 
such a world there is little room for rational calculation, and life 
is ruled by fate and chance and personal luck and prowess. And 
the wise man does not trust too much to his own prowess but 
looks for help to supernatural guidance and warnings, to divina- 
tion and to an implicit obedience to an incomprehensible divine 
will." 12 

However, despite the geographic influences which may be in- 
volved in its origin, every world religion possesses a vision which 
is potentially universal. Thus, although Islam originated in the 
world of the desert and carries with it attitudes and ideas en- 

gendered by such an environment, its appeal is not restricted 
simply to desert-dwelling peoples. 

"... in the case of Islam, we see a new attitude to life, which first 
arose in the arid plateau of Arabia, transforming the lives and 

12 Religion and Culture, p. 73. For a reference to the influence of geogra- 
phy on the formation of Indian religion, see above, pp. 62-3. 

[423] social organization of the Slavonic mountaineers of Bosnia, the 
Malay pirate of the East Indies, the highly civilized city dwellers 
of Persia and Northern India, and the barbarous Negro tribes of 
Africa." 13 

As Dawson remarks elsewhere on the spread of Islam to re- 
gions so different from its original environment, "For a vision to 
be so universal in its effects, there must also be something uni- 
versal in its causes, and we cannot suppose it to be a merely for- 
tuitous product of local circumstances. "14 

The last of these factors of a sociological nature which Dawson 
finds so important in the dynamics of culture is the contribution 
which regional peoples make to the cultural unity which is a 
civilization. Dawson's own work has been greatly enriched by his 
awareness of the complexity of cultural elements which go to 
make up a civilization, 15 and, as we have noted above, it is one 
of his chief criticisms of Spengler and Toynbee that they fail to 
do justice to this complexity and tend to neglect the cultural 
traditions of the primitive and barbarian societies which have so 
greatly affected the formation and character of the higher cul- 
tures. In his assertion of a fundamental continuity between 
civilizations and more primitive societies, Dawson finds himself 
in basic disagreement with the philosophers of history, whose 
gaze is fixed too intently upon civilizations as such to allow them 
to perceive the true character of the unit they are studying. In 
reply to Toynbee's attempt to posit a radical difference between 
civilizations and peoples of lower culture, such as the human 
societies of prehistoric times or those of the non-civilized world 
today, Dawson observes: 

"All these belong to the same world of history as the higher civili- 
zations. They possess language and culture and religion and art. 
And they differ from one another as much or more than they 
differ from the civilizations. There is no excuse for lumping them 

13 Progress and Religion (1st ed., London, 1929), p. 76. 

14 See above, "Sociology and the Theory of Progress," p. 43. 

15 See The Making of Europe and Religion and the Rise of Western 
Culture, especially Chapters 7, 9 and 1 3 in the former, and 5 and 6 in 
the latter. 

[424] all together at the bottom of the scale and grouping the 
civilizations all together at the top. 16 

In this contrast between the conceptions of culture held by 
Dawson and Toynbee, it is significant that A. L. Kroeber, the 
dean of American anthropologists, tends rather to favor the view 
held by Dawson, that there is a basic similarity in character be- 
tween the civilizations and the more primitive societies. In a com- 
munication to The American Anthropologist some years ago, Dr. 
Kroeber defined his position in the following terms: 

"Nor do I accede to the view of Spengler, Toynbee and others 
that civilizations (or "culture") and history begin only at a certain 
level. It is historic records that begin at a certain level Also, readi- 
ness of sophisticated and lettered people to consciously admit 
explicit cultural values usually begins only at a certain level not 
too remote from that of their own culture. And it is certainly 
simpler for them not to be bothered about the so varied primi- 
tives who yet look so much alike. Nevertheless, values exist in 
lowly cultures, definite styles occur in them, and patterns are 
there; and except as a matter now and then of pragmatic con- 
venience, no anthropologist or certainly very few of them will 
admit the validity of splitting the continuum of human culture 
into two strata of which one totally or essentially lacks certain 
qualities that characterize the other. "17 

Although Dawson's own attention has been focused mainly on 
the higher civilizations and upon the cultural influence of the 
world religions, he believes that often it is only by studying the 

lower cultures that the sources and achievements of the advanced 
cultures can be understood and evaluated. In a letter of comment 
upon what is needed before an adequate schema of the various 
epochs of world history can be written, he particularly emphasized 
the importance of the cultures of barbarian peoples. 

". . . We need much further study of the great historical cul- 
tures and especially of the relation between these cultures and 

16 See above, "Arnold Toynbee and the Study of History," p. 401. 

17 Communication by A. L. Kroeber in The American Anthropologist, 
V. 53, No. 2, April- June 1951, pp. 279-83. 

[425] the smaller regional units which the anthropologists are studyi 
There is also a great need for more study of the intermediate 
units the more advanced barbarian cultures, for example, the 
cultures of the Yoruba and Bini in West Africa (as these existed 
within living memory), which are too barbarous for the historians 
and too civilized for the anthropologists. I think that it is only 
by the study of these cultures that we can understand the inter- 
mediate cultures of antiquity the Hittites, the Kassites, the As- 
syrians, even the Persians. 

"The kind of thing we need is a complete survey of a single area, 
as for example West Africa, which would show the general pat- 
tern of primitive and intermediate cultures in contact with and 
under pressure from the world cultures of Islam and Western 
Europe." (Letter of December 28, 1951.) 

Thus for the proper development of a world history of culture 
the historian needs the work of the sociologist and the anthro- 
pologist as well as his own investigations. If this is the case, by 
what principle may each expect to mark out his respective role 
and function in the common task? 

In the article "Sociology as a Science," included in this volume, 
Dawson points out that sociology and history are complementary 
parts of the single science of social life, that it is the task of 
sociology to provide "a general systematic analysis of the social 
process" while history aims to give "a genetic description of the 

same process in detail." Sociology deals with the structure of so- 
ciety, history with its evolution. On this distinction in function 
he bases an analogy to biological science; sociology is related to 
history "as general biology ... to the study of organic evolution." 

To illustrate how sociology and history might co-operate in the 
study of a specific society, so as to delineate more clearly its 
social structure and culture, Dawson takes as his model an his- 
torical community the city-state of ancient Greece. 

"Thus a sociological study of Greek culture would concern it. 
self primarily with the organic structure of Greek society with 
the dty-state and its organization, the Greek family and its eco- 
nomic foundation, the functional differentiation of Greek society, 
[426] the place of slavery in the social order, and so forth; but all 
these elements must be studied genetically and in relation to the 
general development of Greek culture on the basis of the material 
provided by the historian; while the latter, on his side, requires 
the help of the social analysis of the sociologist in order to inter- 
pret the facts that he discovers and to relate them to the organic 
whole of Greek culture, which is the final object of his study."18 

However, it is the anthropologists rather than the sociologists 
who have accomplished most in the direction of community 
studies. For sociology in the past has been so much concerned 
either with the attempted remedy of immediate social problems 
or with the development of mechanistic theories to explain the 
working of the laws of society that it had but little time left for 
study of the community as such. As a result, it has been the 
anthropologists who have undertaken the pioneer and eminently 
successful analyses of modern social communities like Yankee 
City and Southern Town. 19 

A basic question raised by Dawsnn's sociological approach to 
history is the corresponding one of how much part historical evi- 
dence should be allowed to play in the validation of sociological 
principles. Until recently, the general practice in American soci- 
ety has been to concentrate upon particular contemporary 
problems as representing the only kind of evidence which is truly 
empirical; it seems likely that this attitude is itself a sort of pro- 

vincialism and unduly restricts the area for testing of sociological 
concepts. It is significant, we believe, that Max Weber in Ger- 
many in the early part of the present century found that his so- 
ciological studies achieved a clearer focus when he concentrated 
his attention on a particular historical problem; and as a result 
of this study, he enlarged his field of investigation to include the 
historical development of several different societies as they re- 

18 See above, "Sociology as a Science," pp. 20-21. 

19 Cf. W. L. Warner and Paul S. Lunt, The Social Life of a Modern 
Community (Yale University Press, 1941); The Status System of a Modern 
Community (1942); J. Dollard, Caste and Class in a Southern Town (Harper 
& Brothers, 1949). 

[427] lated to this question. 20 More recently, Robert Redfield's turn- 
ing to history to clarify the meaning of the folk society and to al- 
low greater scope for its application, affords another convincing 
testimony of the need for historical perspective in developing 
sociological conceptions. 21 

Moreover, for the formulation of the principles of social inter- 
action, sociology has come to rely in increasing measure upon the 
evidence contributed by the anthropologists' study of primitive 
societies. The value of historical evidence to sociology is of a simi- 
lar kind to that provided by anthropology. The isolation of basic 
factors in a social problem which we find in anthropological field 
work is offered also by historical analyses of past epochs. The com- 
bination of sympathy with detachment which the anthropologist 
should bring to his study is likewise a prerequisite for sound 
historical investigation. Both the cultural historian and the an- 
thropologist can help the sociologist to overcome what is pos- 
sibly his major difficulty: that the very wealth of the material 
available blurs the outlines of the problem he wishes to study. 
Through the models of social and cultural situations which they 
provide, anthropology and history can give to sociology a clearer 
vision and a more precise understanding of its own subject-matter 
and methods of procedure. 

In this connection, it is not without significance that E. E. 
Evans-Pritchard, former president of the Royal Anthropological 

Institute and one of Great Britain's leading social anthropolo- 
gists, has recognized the kinship of his own discipline to history 
and its need to make greater use of methods of an historical na- 
ture. In his presidential address at Oxford in 1950 Dr, Evans- 
Pritchard made the following observations: 

20 See Weber's three volumes of Gesammelte Aufsaetze zur Religions- 
sociologie, parts of which have been translated into English, including the 
well-known Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. For a brief view of 
Weber's thought on this subject, see Parts III and IV of From Max Weber: 
Essays in Sociology, translated by H. H. Gerth and C. W. Mills (New York, 

21 R. Redfield, The Primitive World and its Transformations (Cornell 
University Press, 1953). 

[428] "The value of each discipline to the other will, I believe, be 
recognized when anthropologists begin to devote themselves 
more to historical scholarship and show how knowledge of an- 
thropology often illuminates historical problems. 

"The thesis I have put before you, that social anthropology is a 
kind of historiography, and therefore ultimately of philosophy or 
art, implies that it studies societies as moral systems and not as 
natural systems, that it is interested indesign rather than in proc- 
ess, and that it therefore seeks patterns and not scientific laws, 
and interprets rather than explains. . . . 

"I expect that in the future there will be a turning toward hu- 
manistic disciplines, especially towards history, and particularly 
towards social history or the history of institutions, of cultures 
and of ideas. ... I believe that during this second half of the 
century ... it [i.e. social anthropology] will take as its province 
the cultures and societies, past as well as present, of the non- 
European peoples of the world. "22 

The Nature of Culture 

From these preliminary observations, we may now pass to a 
more detailed consideration of Dawson's conception of culture. 
He has described a culture as "a common way of lifea particu- 

lar adjustment of man to his natural surroundings and his eco- 
nomic needs." Observing that both the biological and intellec- 
tual elements co-operate in the formation of a culture, he points 
out that there are both similarities and a basic difference between 
this process and the development of the way of life of an animal 

It is true that three of the main influences which form and 
modify human culture are the same as in the case of the forma- 
tion of an animal species. They are (1) race, i.e. the genetic factor; 
(2) environment, i.e. the geographical factor; (3) function or oc- 
cupation, i.e. the economic factor. But in addition to these them 
is a fourth element thought or the psychological factor which 

22 "Social Anthropology: Past and Present," the Marett Lecture, delivered 
in Exeter College Hall, Oxford, on June 3, 1950, printed in Man, 1950, No. 

[429] is peculiar to the human species and the existence of which frees 
man from the blind dependence on material environment which 
characterizes the lower forms of life. 2 3 

In his most recent definition of culture, Dawson finds that it is 
language which most prominently manifests the specific form of 
the intellectual element in culture. In a yet unpublished essay 
written in 1954, he remarks: "The linguistic factor is in a sense 
the most important of all, since language provides the psycho- 
logical medium in which all the others operate and through 
which they attain consciousness and continuity." And in another 
part of the same essay, 

"Thus the language community is the most fundamental of all 
human groups and language is the most fundamental element in 
culture. As the use of language distinguishes man from the other 
animals, so it is the formation and use of a particular language 
which distinguishes one culture from another." 

It is to be noted that this increased emphasis on the importance 
of language is closely related to Mr, Dawson's deeper apprecia- 
tion of the intellectual elements in a supcrculture of which we 
have spoken above, by means of which a civilization is able to 

achieve a larger area of communication with societies with which 
it comes into contact. For even in the most primitive cultures, 
language opens up "wider possibilities of communication and 
understanding and social co-operation" which are the primitive 
analogue to the achievement of the higher civilization in extend- 
ing its area of influence to embrace many different peoples. 

The first three factors identified in Dawson's definition of cul- 
ture are the same as Le Play's folk, place and work and corre- 
spond to the biological equivalents of organism, function and 
environment Through this correspondence there exists the 
means to relate the social to the biological sciences; for the work 
of the historian and the sociologist requires an intimate under- 
standing of those things which man has in common with other 
forms of animal life. Because of the importance of these elements 

23 See above, "The Sources of Culture Change," p. 5. 

[430] in conditioning human life and culture, Dawson maintains that 
the approach of the natural sciences has a primary place when 
the sociologist is studying the relation of the human social group 
to its natural environment and its economic activities. He ob- 
serves, "In a thousand ways human life is conditioned and deter- 
mined by material factors, and there is a legitimate materialism 
which consists in the definition and analysis of these relations. "24 

However, a social science interested only in these factors and 
neglecting the specifically human element of thought or psy- 
chology would oversimplify the cultural picture and expose it- 
self to the error of determinism. Indeed, despite their recognition 
of the autonomous character of the religious element in social 
life, this was an error to which Le Play and his school inclined, 
for with their emphasis on folk, work and place, they "tended to 
overestimate the importance of the economic and geographical 
factors and to neglect the contribution of history." This resulted 
from the fact that Le Play did not conceive religion (and, we may 
add, the intellectual factor in general) as a dynamic element 
within culture, but rather thought of it "as an invariable which 
governs social life from outside without entering into it. "25 

Where Dawson goes beyond Le Play and makes his specific 
contribution to cultural theory is in his conception of culture as 
an organic unity of spiritual and biological elements, in which the 
intellectual factor is not something existing apart from a people's 
organized way of life, but is indissolubly united with it. In fact, 
for Dawson the intellectual element is "the soul and formative 
principle of a culture" and is "consubstantial with its material 
substratum" 26 Its position in culture may best be understood by 
seeing it as part of a psycho-physical unity comparable to man 
himself. Developing this analogy he asserts: 

"In reality a culture is neither a purely physical process nor an 
ideal construction. It is a living whole from its roots in the soil 
ind in the simple instinctive life of the shepherd, the fisherman, 

24 See above, "Sociology as a Science" pp. 21-22. 

25 Ibid., p. 23. 

26 Progress and Religion (1st ed.), p. 76. 

431] and husbandman, up to its flowering in the highest achievements 
of the artist and the philosopher; just as the individual combines 
in the substantial unity of his personality the animal life of nutri- 
tion and reproduction with the higher activities of reason and 

This conception enables Dawson to consider every human 
culture from two different viewpoints: as a manifestation of the 
life of the spirit, though never, be it noted, as simply an "ideal 
construction"; and as the response of biological life to the con- 
ditions of the environment. The more primitive a culture, the 
more "earthbound and socially conditioned" will its religion ap- 
pear to be (for it is through religion and its conceptions that the 
intellectual factor pre-eminently expresses itself in primitive life); 
but even under these conditions, where the material factors seem 
completely to dominate a people's way of life, there is always a 
certain margin of freedom by which new conceptions of reality 
may introduce a factor for change. 28 

In his earliest published essay (1921) which we present in this 
volume, it appears that Dawson's conception of culture is the re- 

suit of a synthesis of the sociological views of Comte with those 
of Le Play. Dawson is indebted to Le Play for putting his soci- 
ology into touch with the concrete bases of human life, through 
the latter's classic study of the family in relation to its natural 
environment. On the other hand, while criticizing Comte for 
embarking upon "grandiose schemes for the reconstitution of so. 
ciety" and for creating a theory of society which "was at the 
same time ... a system of moral philosophy and a non-theological 
substitute for religion" Dawson is impressed with Comtek recog- 
nition that the "study of social institutions must go hand in hand 
with the study of the intellectual and spiritual forces which give 
unity to the particular age and society in question," And despite 
his distrust of Comte's philosophy of history and the manner in 
which it became a substitute for sociology, he praises Comte for 
stressing "the formation and growth of a living community" in 

27 Progress and Religion, p. 45. 

28 See Religion and Culture, pp. 52-54. 

[432] the historical development of mankind, "which embraces every 
aspect of human life and thought, and in which every age has a 
living and internal connection with the past and the future." And 
thus he finds himself in full agreement with Comte's view that 
"the causes of progress must be sought ... in man's psychical 
development rather than in the play of external circumstances. "29 

However, it would be misleading to assume that Dawson's 
conception of sociology is simply the result of a personal attempt 
to synthesize the thought of Comte with that of Le Play. While 
both of these thinkers exercised considerable influence upon his 
views of socety, it was not so much directly as through the medi- 
ation of Victor Branford and Patrick Geddes, who founded The 
Sociological Review for the purpose of making Le Play's ideas 
better known in England and established the Le Play House in 
London for the same purpose. Moreover, Geddes and Branford 
had already provided their own synthesis of Comte with Le Play, 
although they dealt with the matter in a somewhat different 
fashion from Dawson. It was through their influence, as well as 
others in The Sociological Review group like Lewis Mumford (a 

disciple of Geddes and Branford), that the influence of Le Play's 
ideas impressed itself on Dawson. 

Nor was Comte the chief source upon which Dawson drew in 
developing his ideas about a civilization as essentially a spiritual 
community; it was rather the earlier work of the St. Simonians 
which was the original influence directing his thought along 
these lines. Mr. Dawson has remarked in a letter to the present 
writer on the respective parts played by Geddes and Branford, 
Comte and the St. Simonians in the formation of his sociological 

"One must remember that the Geddes-Branford sociology was 
purely French by origin and with rather an anti-German bias. It 
represents a synthesis of Comte-Leplay-Bergson, with a strong 
inclination to biological terms and explanations. (Geddes was a 
biologist and a close friend of Sir Arthur Thomson.) 

"I diverged from them, first by my sympathy with the German 

29 See above, "Sociology and the Theory of Progress" pp. 38-39. 

[433] tradition, for example, Herder instead of Montesquieu, and in 
more recent times Troeltsch and Weber. Secondly, by going back 
from Comte to the St. Simonians and Catholic social thinkers 
from whom Comte himself had taken so much. In the case of the 
St Simonians, I have always regarded Hazard's Doctrine de St. 
Simon (1824) as the real starting point of modern sociology (and 
I believed it owed more to Bazard than to St. Simon). 

"On the other hand, I agreed entirely with Geddes in the value 
he attached to Aristotle, and he owed this not to Comte but to 
his own biological studies. My own interest in Aristotle goes back 
to my Oxford days when I studied the Politics with Ernest Bar- 
ker. Also in those early days I was influenced by Fustel de Coulan- 
ges, and his study of the city prepared me for Geddes' view of the 
city as the centre of sociological study. 

"Thus my study of sociology was conditioned by my earlier 
humanist studies, and the Geddes-Branford school had reached 

the same point from the opposite direction; that is, from bio- 
logical and geographical science to a humanist sociology." (Letter 
of July 4, 1954.) 

It is important to emphasize that, although many have con- 
sidered Comte the founder of modern sociology, Dawson believes 
that the real founders were those earlier social thinkers upon 
whom Comte drew but whom he did not credit for their contri- 
butions to his thought. 

What is particularly significant in this early essay of Dawson's 
which we were discussing above is that he is as firmly convinced 
as Comte was of the movement of progress in human history, 
but he sees it achieved in more complex fashion, because of the 
ambivalent relationship between material and spiritual elements 
in culture. To avoid the errors of Comte's idealism, Dawson 
would direct the attention of students of society to the study of 
supercultures and civilizations, which are the actual historical 
embodiment of the movement of human progress. By studying 
these unities in the spirit and with the methods of Le Play, it 
should be possible to secure a mote accurate knowledge of the 
manner in which biological and social elements combine in the 
formation of a civilization, and thus provide a more intelligent 
[434] direction of those forces which at present operate for the crea- 
tion of a world-wide society. 

Thus the investigation of the character of civilizations and the 
study of the laws by which they flourish and decline, which has 
been the work of Spengler, Toynbee, Danilevsky, and many 
others, including Dawson himself, is a legitimate task for the cul- 
tural historian; but it must be pursued with an awareness of the 
local societies which interact with each other and with the wider 
cultural unity; for it is these that contribute the vital energies by 
which alone the life of a civilization can develop and expand. 

It is a realization of this fact which lies behind Dawson's em- 
phasis upon the vital contact a culture must maintain with its 
region. Despite his concern with the intellectual elements in cul- 
ture, he is profoundly aware of the material foundations in which 
these elements have their roots. Indeed, notwithstanding his 

trenchant criticism of Spengler's fundamental thesis that culture 
is biologically determined, Dawson has considerable sympathy 
with Spenglerian insights into the influence of biology and geo- 
graphic environment upon the course of history. This attitude is 
especially evident in his description of the process of cultural 
degeneration which results from an unwholesome urbanization. 

"First comes the concentration of culture in the city, with a 
great resultant heightening of cultural activity. But this is fol- 
lowed by the lowering of the level of culture in the country and 
the widening of the gulf between townsman and peasant. In 
some cases, as in ancient Greece, this amounts to a gradual but 
thorough rebarbarization of the country, in othersas in Russia 
since Peter the Great, and in the Hellenistic East since Alexander 
the peasants still cling to the traditions of a native culture, 
while the towns adopt a ready-made urban civilization from 
abroad. In the last stage the cities lose all economic and vital con- 
tact with the region in which they are placed. They have become 
parasitic; less dependent on nature and more dependent on the 
maintenance of an artificial political and economic system. . . . 

"No civilization, however advanced, can afford to neglect these 
ultimate foundations in the life of nature and the natural region 
on which its social welfare depends, for even the highest achieve- 
[435] ments of science and art and economic organization are power- 
less to avert decay, if the vital functions of the social organism 
become impaired. "30 

In his exposition of this process at work in the decline of Greek 
culture, Dawson implies the need for a local differentiation of 
culture in particular regional forms if social health is to be main- 
tained. Otherwise the purely intellectual element, losing its roots 
in the life of a particular people, exposes society to the dangers 
of a sterile cosmopolitanism. Rather than regarding national and 
regional particularities as simply an obstacle to be overcome in 
the development of civilization, Dawson looks upon them as a 
necessary counterbalance and complement to the values sought 
after in an ecumenical organization of culture. Consequently he 
does not consider the particular and the universal elements in 
culture as barren negations of each other, but rather as fruitful 

opposites, the tension between which is necessary for attaining a 
high level of cultural creativeness. 

And while recognizing that national and regional cultures are 
the product of the influence of material factors like race and 
geography upon human achievement, he would maintain that 
such factors are capable of being moulded into high cultural 
forms by man's creative spirit. Nor would he regard the gradual 
abolition of cultural particularism as a desirable objective to be 
sought after: in a striking passage in The Judgment of the Na- 
tions, he contrasts the "immense richness and vitality of Euro- 
pean culture in its manifold development in the different nations 
through the ages" with the eighteenth-century "philosophic 
ideal of a society founded on abstract rational principles [that] 
seemed lifeless and empty."31 For Dawson, the insights of 
Edmund Burke and the German Romantics concerning the 
organic nature of any living culture are factors of primary im- 
portance in any proposed world order. 

Nevertheless he would certainly agree indeed it is one of the 
chief bases of his criticism of the modern European development 

30 Progress and Religion, pp. 67, 69. 

31 See above, "Vitality or Standardization in Culture," pp. 75-76. 

[436] that national particularism always presents the danger that it 
will exaggerate its own importance and ignore the broader cul- 
tural unity of which it is merely a part. By so doing it destroys the 
wider vision of reality which is the natural complement to re- 
gional values, and which must form the necessary framework for 
any people's development of a high civilization. 

It is because of his consciousness of the organic element in 
culture that Dawson is opposed to the abstract intellectualism of 
Hegel's conception of history. To the Hegelians "two successive 
cultures are not independent organisms, they are merely the em- 
bodiment of a pair of complementary propositions in the process 
of Neo-Hegelian dialectic" Hence, for the Hegelians, the fall of 
Greek culture does not require any historical explanation, it was 
a natural result of the passing of the Hellenic idea, and called 

forth by its own inner logic the Magian idea which succeeded it.32 

Dawson's objection to Hegel and his disciples is that, by an 
opposite road, they reach substantially the same goal as Spengler: 
that is, they eliminate any contribution which science and the 
individual human mind may make to an understanding of history. 
For Spengler, this results from a denial of man's ability to tran- 
scend the biological factors by which his thinking is necessarily 
determined; for Hegel, it flows from the refusal to admit the in- 
fluence of non-intellectual factors on the movement of history. 
For if the development of history is simply the working out of 
the Idea, those fields which deal with the particular and the con- 
tingent have nothing to contribute to its understanding. Thus 
the significance of the unique event for man's historical develop- 
ment, and the conditioning of that development by material fac- 
tors are equally ignored by the Hegelian conception of history, 
which sees the end already predetermined by its beginnings. 

As against such a view of history determined in its movement 
by an inevitable necessity, Dawson cites a few of the numerous 
instances of historical accidents which emphasize the intrusion of 
brutal reality into the historical process and its upsetting effect 
upon the neat categories of a purely logical explanation of history. 

32 See above, "Oswald Spengler and the Life of Civilization," p. 387. 

[437] "It is even possible for one culture to kill another, as we see 
in the case of the destruction of the Peruvian civilization by the 
Spaniards, and in the countless instances in which primitive cul- 
tures have withered away in contact with modern European 
civilization. Nor is it only the lower cultures that are destroyed in 
this way. There are also instances of highly developed urban 
civilizations falling victim to barbarian invaders, as when the 
flourishing culture of the Danube provinces was wiped out in 
the fifth century A.D., or when the cities of Eastern Iran were de- 
stroyed by the Mongols. "33 

Dawson's final remarks on this point show his conception of 
the duality of the cultural process as reflected in the movement 
of world history. The intellectual elements in a culture like re- 

ligion and science "do not die with the culture of which they 
formed part They are handed on from people to people, and as- 
sist as a creative force in the formation of new cultural organ- 
isms" 34 But in order to do this, they must take form in the indi- 
vidual cultures of particular peoples; they must descend into the 
world of matter and time and suffer the hazards and misadven- 
tures to which human societies are subjected. While not re- 
stricted to the culture or society where they had their origin, 
their development and spread is contingent upon their being 
accepted by other societies and made a part of a new cultural 
growth. Where they fail to achieve this embodiment, ideas no 
longer have historical reality. Thus the movement of "intellec- 
tual and religious synthesis's which constitutes the progress of 
humanity is not something detached from the accidents of his- 
tory, but something which depends upon historical events for 
whatever realization it is to achieve. Only by recognizing both 
the spiritual element in culture and the material factors by which 
its development is conditioned is it possible to comprehend 

". . . that real element of integration and progress, which causes 
different civilizations to be, not closed worlds without meaning 
for one another, but progressive stages in the life of humanity. 35 

33 See above, "Oswald Spengler and the Life of Civilizations," p, 388. 

34 Loc.cit. 

35 Ibid., p. 389. 

[438] If such are the historical orientations of Christopher Dawson 
thought, a closer examination of its sociological foundations is es- 
sential. History, according to Dawson, is necessarily secondary 
in the study of culture, since it can explain only the changes in 
culture that occur after its original formation. The basic character 
of a culture is determined by the life of a human group in its pri- 
mary relation to its environment and functions, and it is essen- 
tially these which the anthropologist and the sociologist must in 

Following Le Play, Dawson finds the link between the genetic 
and the geographic factors in culture in the so-called primary na- 
ture occupations, which are the response of a people to the op- 

portunities presented by the region they inhabit These occupa- 
tions are six in number and form the foundation for all material 
culture. Le Play identifies the types formed by these occupations 
as: (1) the hunters and food gatherers; (2) the pastoral peoples; 
(3) the fishermen of the sea coasts; (4) the agriculturalists; (5) the 
foresters; and (6) the miners. These occupations are primary in 
so far as they require some sort of direct contact with nature to 
bring forth their product.37 

Moreover, in these primary occupations agriculture holds a 
unique position, for it requires a much closer relation to the 
special features of a particular region than do the other primary 
forms of exploiting nature and her resources. A hunting culture, 
as Dawson observes, may be uniform throughout half a continent, 
"while a sedentary agricultural one will develop new regional 
types according to every variation of climate and vegetation. "38 
A farming people thus marries a particular region in order to make 
it bear more abundant fruit; this involves the disadvantage of 
restriction to a specific area but the advantage of a much fuller 
development of its resources. 

Citing specific examples of human cultures which have grown 
out of a particular environment and are based upon products of 

36 See above, "Sociology as a Science," p. 22. 

37 Progress and Religion, p. 54. 

38 Ibid., p. 57. 

[439] that region "the wine and olive of the Mediterranean, the 
rice and mulberry of China, the coco-nut and taro of the Pacific 
Islands, the maize and tobacco of Central America" Dawson 
points out the tremendous influence which the material founda- 
tion exerts upon the character of a culture. 

"This intimate communion of human culture with the soil in 
which it is rooted shows itself in every aspect of material civiliza- 
tionin food and clothing, in weapons and tools, in dwellings and 
settlements, in roads and methods of communication. In every 
direction, the natural character of the region determines the 
modes in which a culture will express itself, and these in turn 

react upon the character of the culture itself. "39 

Yet the development of a culture is not simply passive response 
to an environment, but is an act of creative co-operation with its 
potentialities. Here also the metaphor of marriage is an appropri- 
ate one, for it is by some degree of union with and mastery over 
its environment that every society, even the most primitive one, 
achieves its organized way of life. Moreover, when pursued for 
a long enough period of time, the primary nature occupation by 
which a people asserts its mastery affects not only the environ- 
ment but the physical character of the group itself. There is thus 
an intimate interaction between the racial and geographic factors 
in culture, which not only brings forth social and economic 
organization but transforms the two parents in the process. 

"If this communion endures without change for a sufficiently 
long period, it will produce not merely a new way of life, but a 
new type of man a race as well as a culture. Thus in the eastern 
hemisphere each climatic zone possesses its specific racial type, 
the Negroids of the tropical forest, the Mediterranean race in the 
ivarm temperate zone, the Nordic race in the cooler latitudes, and 
ihe Lapps of the Arctic regions. 

"And each of these races formerly possessed, broadly speaking, 
ts own cultural type, so that we may speak interchangeably of 
Negroid race and Negroid culture, Nordic race and Nordic cul- 
ture, Arctic race and Arctic culture. 

39 Ibid., p. 58. 

[440] "Such a condition is, of course, only possible where conditions 
of segregation have endured unchanged for vast ages. "40 

Elsewhere Dawson speaks of the tendency of a culture to stabi- 
lize itself and persist substantially unchanged for centuries, once 
it has achieved some sort of equilibrium with its environment 
He compares this with the process by which particular biological 
species arise in response to the conditions of a particular environ- 
ment, even though in the formation of a culture the human ele- 
ment exercises a power of active choice which is not present in 

the formation of a species.41 

This conception of the persistence of a culture's pattern under 
conditions of marked isolation seems to connect Dawson with 
the diffusionist schools in anthropology, both English and Ger- 
man. Although aware of and apparently concurring in the criti- 
cisms made of these schools by other anthropologists, Dawson 
ascribes to Graebner and Schmidt, the founders of the German 
Kulturfcreislehre, the inauguration of a new approach to cultural 
study the conception of a culture-complex as an interrelated 
group of social phenomena which has exercised great influence 
on leading American anthropologists: Kroeber, Lowic t Golden- 
weiser, and Wissler were specifically mentioned at the time Daw- 
son made this point back in 1929 (in Progress and Religion). He 
also quotes approvingly as a basis for his own viewpoint the 
remark of W. H. R. Rivers, possibly the greatest member of the 
English diffusionist school, that "The evidence from Melanesia 
suggests that an isolated people does not change or advance, but 
that the introduction of new ideas, new instruments and new 
techniques leads to a definite process of evolution, the products 
of which may differ greatly from either the indigenous or the 
immigrant constituents, the result of the interaction thus re- 
sembling a chemical compound rather than a physical mixture. "42 

40 Ibid., p. 55. 

41 See above, "The Sources of Culture Change." pp. 5, 6. 

42 Psychology and Politics, p. 118, quoted in Progress and Religion, pp, 59- 
60. For the reference to the influence of Graebner and Schmidt on American 
anthropology, see p, 52. 

[441] What seems interesting here is the fact that the diffusionist 
historical schools were originally formed in protest against the 
domination of anthropology by methods of natural science. Yet 
in his idea of the stability of primitive culture, Dawson seems to 
consider one basic cause for it to lie in the fact that in conditions 
of isolation the material factors in culture are the governing in- 
fluences and hence the life of the social group bears a marked 
similarity to the life of the biological species which has attained 
adjustment to its environment. As Dawson expresses this point 

elsewhere, "Here sociology approaches the standpoint of the 
natural sciences and comes closer to the biologist than to the 
historian. "43 

Also significant of the weight which Dawson accords to ma- 
terial factors in culture is the view, which we have cited above, 
that racial characteristics themselves are the product of a social 
group's interaction with its geographic environment. 

"... In these cases [of primitive isolation] . . . culture becomes 
inseparable from race. 

"But this does not mean, as the racialists believe, that culture 
is the result of predetermined racial inheritance. On the contrary, 
it would be more true to say that race is the product of culture, 
and that the differentiation of racial types represents the culmina- 
tion of an age-long process of cultural segregation and specializa- 
tion at a very primitive level. . . . "44 

But not only in the case of the primitive "race-forming pre- 
cultures" is this factor operative, but even in such recent instances 
as the immigration of European peoples to new lands. As an 
example of this on a limited scale, Dawson cites the physical and 
psychological transformation which a century of living in a new 
environment has brought about in the original English and Irish 
immigrants to Australia.45 

43 See above, "Sociology as a Science," p. 22 

44 Religion and Culture, pp 47-48 

45 Ibid., p. 48. This observation agrees with that made by Boas and others 
on the changes in physical type which distinguish the offspring of immigrants 
to America from their foreign-born parents. 

[442] However, in the final analysis it is the intellectual element in 
social life which is predominant and which gives a culture its 
specific form. To this element Dawson assigns quite an inclusive 
content since he classes under it such aspects of culture as reli- 
gion, art, philosophy, science and language. (We have noted 
earlier Dawson's recent emphasis on the importance of language 
in the study of culture.) Essentially the intellectual element con- 

sists in a common set of values which serve to unify the various 
activities of the group. Such values find expression pre-eminently, 
Dawson believes, in a society's religious beliefs, since it is here 
that they acquire a sacredness which enables them to resist the 
disintegrating forces at work within a society.46 

The maintenance of a society involves both a community of 
belief certain agreed upon values, whether explicit or implicit- 
and a continuous and conscious social discipline. To secure these 
objectives, there must be some factor in culture which can com- 
mand the allegiance of the society's members against the tempta- 
tions of an anti-social individualism. In primitive society, and 
even in most higher civilizations, this factor is found in the 
existence of transcendent powers who are believed to control the 
life of nature and of man. Dawson observes that to the vast 
majority of peoples throughout history, "For a community to 
conduct its affairs without reference to these powers, seems as 
irrational as for a community to cultivate the earth without paying 
any attention to the courses of the seasons. "47 

It is precisely here, in the conscious discipline exerted by reli- 
gious beliefs over its members, that the adaptation of a social 
group to its environment differs from that of an animal species. 
However much a human group may seem to approach the bio- 
logical level in conforming to the character of its environment, 
this conformity is only achieved by an act of choice: the deliberate 
adherence of the group to the common set of values which en- 

46 Ibid., pp. 48-50. For a similar view of the social function of religion, see 
African Political Systems, ed. by M. Fortes and E. E. Evans-Pritchard (Lon- 
don, 1940). 

47 Ibid., p. 49. 

[442] ables it to organize its activities. Thus, even at its lowest level 
culture implies the existence of the distinctively human elements 
which makes use of the environment for the attainment of par- 
ticular social ends. 

We have mentioned above that, in Dawson's view, there are 
several different areas which make up the intellectual element in 

culture. In one of the articles included in the present volume he 
suggests the relationship which these various provinces in intellec- 
tual culture bear to one another, as also their organic interrelation 
in the unity of the culture and the sequence of their respective ap- 
pearance. In this passage one notes particularly the emphasis 
given to the intuitive aspects of intellectual culture. 

" seems to be the fact that a new way of life or a new view 
of Reality is felt intuitively before it is comprehended intellec- 
tually, that a philosophy is the last product of a mature culture, 
the crown of a long process of social development, not its founda- 
tion. It is in Religion and Art that we can best see the vital 
intention of the living culture. . . . 

"[For] the same purposeful fashioning of plastic material which 
is the very essence of a culture, expresses itself also in art. The 
Greek statue must be first conceived, then lived, then made, and 
last of all thought. There you have the whole cycle of creative 
Hellenic culture. First, Religion, then Society, then Art, and 
finally Philosophy. "8 

This analogy between social effort and the artist forming his 
material so as to embody within it his artistic vision is a favorite 
one with Dawson to express the dynamic and creative aspects of 
culture. He uses it most incisively in the following passage, in 
which he shows the creativeness involved in the adaptation which 
a culture makes to its environment. 

"We do not regard the dependence of an artist on his material 
as a sign of weakness and lack of skill On the contrary, the greater 
the artist, the more fully does he enter into his material, and the 
more completely does his work conform itself to the qualities of 
the medium in which it is embodied. In the same way the con- 

48 See above, "Civilization and Morals," pp. 49-50 

[444] formity of a culture to its natural environment is no sign of 
barbarism. The more a culture advances, the more fully does it 
express itself in and through its material conditions, and the more 
intimate is the co-operation between man and nature. "49 

Nor is this comparison between art and culture merely an acci- 
dental one, for Dawson believes there is a fundamental affinity 
between them. Art indeed is a flowering of culture and represents 
a society's fundamental aspirations in their most concentrated 
expression. It is thus a key to the inner character of a culture. Far 
more than statistical facts, art enables the student of culture to 
penetrate to the peculiar spirit of the society he is studying, to 
perceive its specific form and appreciate its particular outlook 
upon life. 

"To understand the art of a society is to understand the vital 
activity of that society in its most intimate and creative moments. 
. . . Hence an appreciation of art is of the first importance to 
the historian and the sociologist, and it is only by viewing social 
life itself as an artistic activity that we can understand its full 

"No amount of detailed and accurate external knowledge will 
compensate for the lack of that immediate vision which springs 
from the comprehension of a social tradition as a living unity."50 

A. L. Kroeber has pointed out that it requires something of the 
faculties of the artist to seize upon the specific character of a 
culture. 51 For this reason, he asserts, some of the best delineations 
of culture patterns have come from non-anthropologists who have 
had the intuition needed to grasp the underlying spirit of the 
culture they were describing. It will be recalled that Oswald 
Spengler's The Decline of the West contains very perceptive 
descriptions of the particular character of several of the civiliza- 
tions he compares with one another in his view of world history, 
although he makes this character so all-pervasive that no aspect 
of the culture can escape its influence. In the light of his intuitive 

49 Progress and Religion, p. 57. 

50 See above, "Art and Society" pp. 69, 68. 

51 Anthropology (Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1948), p. 317. 

[445] perception of cultural patterns, it is significant that Spengler was 
neither a professional historian nor an anthropologist; but he was 

an individual of extremely wide cultural background. 

Kroeber, in his volume on Configurations of Culture Growth, 
specifically commends Spengler for his ability to grasp the peculiar 
character of various civilizations and considers this one of Spen- 
gler's outstanding contributions to cultural study. And Ruth 
Benedict, in her delineation of the contrasting attitudes toward 
life she finds in certain primitive cultures, made use of particular 
Spenglerian themes as a conceptual basis for her work. 52 It is 
possibly as a result of this fact (as well as of her own humanistic 
studies) that she makes a strong plea for more students trained in 
the humanities to enter the field of anthropology. Only in this 
way, she believes, can anthropology make full use of the cultural 
materials with which it deals. 53 

So far as history is concerned, it is Dawson's belief that a train- 
ing in the humanities and an appreciation of aesthetic values have 
formed the basis for much of the most important historical 
writing of the last two centuries. In fact, the very attitudes which 
determined the writing of history in a particular way and, at 
different periods, gave it new motivations and new goals, have 
been derived from an aesthetic approach to history. In a letter of 
March 6, 1954 to the present writer, Mr. Dawson suggests his 
views on this matter: 

"... the whole principle of liberal education is aesthetic, and 
up to the present, history itself has depended on a pre-existing 
aesthetic attitude. 

"Thus eighteenth-century historiography is based on the aes- 
thetic and criticism of French classical culture, nineteenth-cen- 
tury historiography got its new impetus (as in Ranke) from the 
Romantic aesthetic, and in my own experience and that of other 
historians I have known, one starts with an aesthetic intuitive 
vision of a culture in its literary and artistic products and then 
proceeds to study and criticize and compare and analyze." 

52 See Patterns of Culture (Mentor, 1948), pp. 48-51. 

53 See her article "Anthropology and the Humanities,'" in The American 
Anthropologist, V. 50, October 1948, p. 589. 

[446] But the study of culture is not merely the contemplation of a 
static object; it is rather like tracing the development of an organic 
process and essentially implies movement in time. Just as the 
modern sciences are increasingly concerned with aspects of de- 
velopment in their subject matter and have become profoundly 
historical in spirit, surveying "the whole world of nature as it 
lives and moves "54 so history's interest in the organic cultural 
evolution of society leads it in the direction of science and scien- 
tific methods. Empirical methods are as necessary as intuitive 
vision for the study of a society and its culture and history; they 
are needed to investigate, to compare, and to test one's conclu- 
sions; their use, however, is not primary, but secondary; they are 
not so much creative as critical; they may serve to modify or to 
reject one's original view, but of themselves they will not establish 
a new theory. It is the idea or conception which forms the basis 
for empirical work; and this is not arrived at by means of accumu- 
lation of facts, but rather by a certain intuitive faculty which is 
as necessary to significant scientific thinking as it is to aesthetic 
creation. Certain remarks of Dawson in an article replying to an 
academic historian who criticized broader interpretations in his- 
tory make this point clear. 

"The academic historian is perfectly right in insisting on the 
importance of the techniques of historical criticism and research. 
But the mastery of these techniques will not produce great his- 
tory, any more than a mastery of metrical technique will produce 
great poetry. For this something more is necessary intuitive 
understanding, creative imagination, and finally a universal vision 
transcending the relative limitations of the particular field of 
historical study. The experience of the great historians such as 
Tocqueville and Ranke leads me to believe that a universal meta- 
historical vision of this kind, partaking more of the nature of 
religious contemplation than of scientific generalization, lies very 
dose to the sources of their creative power."55 

Related to his conception of social life as an artistic activity, 
a creative interaction between a human society and its environ- 

54 See above, "Sociology as a Science," p. 191. 

55 See above, "The Problem of Metahistory," p. 393. 

[447] ment, is one of Dawson's most significant insights about culture. 
This is the principle that all cultural creativeness depends upon 
a certain polarity or diversity between the component elements 
in a culture, and that the greater the creativeness of a culture or 
a period, the more likely is this tension between opposite poles to 
be manifested. 

This creative tension is not without its dangers, however, since 
an increase in its intensity may lead to a society's being torn 
asunder. This is what Dawson believes to have happened at the 
time of the Reformation between the opposite cultural poles of 
Northern and Southern Europe, and at an earlier period in 
Greece, when the Peloponnesian War marked the split between 
the Ionian and Dorian strains in Greek civilization, as represented 
respectively by Athens and Sparta. 56 

The Dynamics of Culture Change 

Based upon his conception of the organic nature of culture, 
Dawson identifies five main types of culture change: (1) that of a 
people developing its way of life in its original environment with- 
out the intrusion of human factors from outside; (2) the case of a 
people coming into a new geographical environment and readapt- 
ing its culture in consequence; (3) the mixture of two different 
peoples, each with its own way of life and social organization, 
usually as a result of conquest but occasionally as a result of 
peaceful contact (this, which Dawson considers the most typical 
of all kinds of culture change, also involves a change of the 
second type for at least one of the peoples); (4) the adoption by a 
people of some element of material culture from elsewhere; and 
(5) the modification of a people's way of life owing to the adop- 
tion of new knowledge or beliefs, or to some change in its con- 
ception of reality. 5 7 

The principle of dynamic tension underlies most of these five 
causes of change in a people's culture. The two most important 
causes the third and fifth which Dawson cites are those in 

56 See above, "Cultural Polarity and Religious Schism," pp. 83-84. 

57 See above, 'The Sources of Culture Change," pp. 7-9. 

[448] which the creative tension is at its greatest degree of intensity. 
One of these is the cultural situation presented by two different 
peoples who are gradually interfused with each other over a long 
period of time, as a result of an original act of conquest or migra- 
tion. Such a cause is to be found at work in the genesis both of 
Greek culture and of Western civilization, in each of which, as 
mentioned above, the tension became too great for the culture to 
sustain without internecine conflict and division. 

The other cause of greatest importance for cultural change is 
that which occurs when a people secures new knowledge or adopts 
a new view of reality. It is this type which Dawson believes to 
exercise the greatest and most lasting influence of all. He finds 
the paramount example of such change in the coming of a new 
religion which, even though it has roots in a people's past experi- 
ence, transforms their way of life and turns their social develop- 
ment into new and unexpected channels. 

Not only is the change wrought by a new view of reality most 
sweeping, but to the degree that the spiritual tradition which it 
establishes is a powerful one, it will mould the outlook of peoples 
living in that cultural area for many centuries to come. Thus the 
view of reality which acts as a ferment of change in its beginnings, 
operates to maintain the stability of a culture or civilization once 
it has become accepted. 

The ultimate barriers between peoples are not those of race or 
language or region, but those differences of spiritual outlook and 
tradition which are seen in the contrast of Hellene and Barbarian, 
Jew and Gentile, Moslem and Hindu, Christian and Pagan, In all 
such cases there is a different conception of reality, different moral 
and aesthetic standards, in a word, a different inner world. 58 

There is one exception which Dawson finds to this general law 
that the persistence of a world religion in a particular area leads 

58 Progress and Religion, p. 76. It should be noted that while Dawson con- 
siders language "the most fundamental element in culture," so that the "use 
of a particular language distinguishes one culture from another" (see above, 
p. 429), the civilizations and the world religions are supercultures, embracing 
many different regional cultures and linguistic groups within their area of 

[449] to conservatism and cultural stability. That is in the effect 
of Christianity on Western civilization. Although Christianity 
created the unity that is Europe, it has not been content merely 
to stabilize and conserve that unity. Instead it has been a continu- 
ing influence for change throughout each of the different periods 
in Western cultural history. Not only has it inspired the religious 
development of the West and served as a means for the trans- 
mission of the Western cultural heritage to peoples of the most 
diverse social backgrounds, but it has also had a powerful though 
indirect influence on the successive movements of reform and 
revolution by which Western society has been distinguished from 
the other world cultures. 

"In fact, no civilization, not even that of ancient Greece, has ever 
undergone such a continuous and profound process of change as 
Western Europe has done during the last nine hundred years. It 
is impossible to explain this fact in purely economic terms by a 
materialistic interpretation of history. The principle of change 
has been a spiritual one and the progress of Western civilization 
is intimately related to the dynamic ethos of Christianity, which 
has gradually made Western man conscious of his moral responsi- 
bility and his duty to change the world."59 

In considering the five basic types of cultural change which 
Dawson enumerates, we find that the conception of cultural sta- 
bility underlies each and defines it by contrast. It is only when 
a tension is set up between the otherwise stable culture and new 
influences from outside that major change may be expected to 
occur. Moreover, precisely because change is something out of 
the ordinary and interferes with the previous mode of a culture's 
functioning, there is a limit to the amount of change of which a 
society is capable without breakdown. This limitation is a result 
of the organic nature of culture, which implies that culture is not 

simply an intellectual development or the result of a movement 
of ideas, but has its roots firmly planted in the soil of its geo- 
graphic environment. 

When change within a culture is too abrupt or when the 
59 The Judgment of the Nations, p. 23. 

[450] environment or conflict with other social groups demands too 
great a degree of adjustment to new conditions, the effort required 
of a society may be beyond the optimum of which it is capable 
and the culture will go under rather than maintain itself. Abrupt- 
ness of change developed from within the culture itself is only 
likely to occur in the case of high civilizations, since these already 
contain such a complexity of elements that the interaction of the 
latter with one another may set off rapid change; but abrupt 
change in less advanced cultures is almost always a result of the 
intrusion of some external force impinging upon the adaptation 
they have achieved; the most common of such external forces are 
extensive changes in the regional environment or the impact of 
other societies. 

"Life necessarily implies change, but this does not mean that 
change always implies life. There is always a limit to the amount 
of change of which an organism is capable, and this is no less true 
of the social than of the physical organism, A species may adapt 
itself to a slight change in climate and may flourish the more for 
it, but if the change is very great a whole series of species may 
become extinct and new ones may take their place. And, as a rule, 
the more specialized and elaborate is the type the more easily does 
it succumb to change, while the more plastic and adaptable forms 
of life survive. . . . 

"In the same way human cultures or forms of social life develop 
and enrich themselves by cultural change, but if the change is 
too great or too sudden or the culture too stereotyped and fixed, 
change brings death instead of progress. 

"It is not a question of racial deterioration but one of social 
failure. The Red Indians were probably as fit and fine a type of 

man as has ever existed, but their culture could not compete with 
the more highly organized form of civilization of the European 
colonists. And so they vanished with the buffalo and the open 
prairie before the plough and the rifle and the railway."60 

In this passage, written by Dawson in 1931, there seems to be 
an anticipation of Toynbee's concept of environmental challenges 
which are too severe for a society to meet successfully. However, 

60 The Modern Dilemma, pp. 35-36, 

[451] where Toynbee thinks of the over-severe challenge as inhibiting 
the progress of a less advanced society toward civilization, or as 
a cause of breakdown once the level of civilization has been 
achieved, Dawson considers that the destruction of the culture 
itself is involved. This is related to a basic difference in viewpoint 
between Dawson and Toynbee on the nature of culture: Dawson 
holding that all culture, including the level of the primitive, is 
only achieved by an effort of social discipline and mastery of the 
environment, Toynbee tending to think of civilization alone as 
requiring that expenditure of social energy which he designates 
a response. 

For Toynbee, therefore, there is a sharp distinction between 
the dynamic equilibrium which characterizes a civilization, in 
which the dialectic of challenge and response is continually in 
operation to push the society forward toward new goals, and the 
state of primitive society, in which the cake of custom is unbroken 
and fixation on cultural routine results from mere inertia. In 
Toynbee's view there is apparently no period in which an ad- 
vanced society like a civilization has met its challenges successfully 
and has achieved harmony among its constituent elements and 
with its environment; if a civilization is not moving forward, in 
Toynbee's view, it is either in a state of breakdown or cultural 
stagnation, in the latter instance resembling, on a higher level, 
the immobility of primitive culture.61 

Thus, whereas for Toynbee primitive societies as we know them 
at present are essentially static, and this is what distinguishes 

them from civilizations (or at least civilizations in the process of 
growth), for Dawson both primitive and advanced cultures can 
only be maintained by dynamic effort: when this fails, the culture 
itself goes out of existence. Toynbee will admit the previous 
dynamism of primitive societies in having reached the particular 
level of culture they now enjoy; but he fails to see that even 
keeping a culture going is not possible without social co-operation 
and hard work. 

61 See A Study of History (Somervell abridgment), sections on the genesis 
and growth of civilizations, but especially pp. 48-51 and 209-216. 

[452] Dawson observes in this connection: 

"To the outside observer the most striking feature of primitive 
culture is its extreme conservatism. Society follows the same path 
of custom and convention with the irrational persistence of ani- 
mal life. 

"But in reality all living culture is intensely dynamic. It is domi- 
nated by the necessity of maintaining the common life, and it is 
possible to ward off the forces of evil and death and gain life and 
good fortune only by a continuous effort of individual and social 
discipline. "62 

In addition to the organic basis for limited change which we 
have discussed above, there is also the psychological basis, the fact 
that an individual and a society both require a feeling of security, 
of connection with social roots in the past, if change is not to be 
merely destructive. (It is interesting to speculate to what extent 
this psychological need, with the limits it imposes upon the 
amount of change which an individual or a society is capable of 
absorbing, is a result of man's physical nature and the biological 
foundations of human culture. )63 

Dawson recognizes this psychic aspect which conditions ac- 
ceptance of social change when he speaks of the need for a new 
invention, whether social or material in nature to be related to 
the vital spirit of the culture if it is to be a cause of progress rather 
than decline. 64 Somehow or other the new invention must be 

incorporated into the fabric of the existing culture and made 
consonant with the society's needs and previous experience. This 
happened, as Dawson notes, with the introduction of the horse to 
the culture of the Plains Indians; but much more often is it likely 
that the new element cannot be incorporated successfully without 
such radical social change taking place as to destroy the basis for 
the culture's continued existence. As an example of this outcome, 

62 Religion and Culture, p. 56. 

63 Progress and Religion, pp. 211-213, discusses this matter in relation to 
the effects upon social vitality of urban-industrial life. 

64 Ibid., pp. 77-78. 

[453] "Today the Esquimaux are learning a new manner of life, they 
are becoming civilized, but at the same time and for the same 
reason they are a dying race. "65 

If a culture proves strong enough, it will eventually throw off, 
sometimes sooner, sometimes later, changes that have been intro- 
duced into it from outside and for which there is no sufficient 
basis in its own past experience. If the change comes attended by 
a superior technology, it will usually destroy the culture it has 
conquered. The most common instances of this are the reactions 
of primitive peoples to contact with modern Western civilization, 
but it is not only more primitive societies that are endangered by 
rapid social change brought on by agencies external to their so- 

"The most civilized people of antiquity, the Greeks, failed, not 
because their civilization became unprogressive, but because it 
was too complex and refined. Their standards of life, their ideals 
of civic and individual liberty and enjoyment, were too high to 
stand the strain of political competition, and they went down 
before ruder and harder peoples like the Macedonians and the 
Romans, who asked less of life and got more. "66 

Although the Greeks lost their political independence, the 
forms of their culture were retained and transmitted by their 
conquerors to new peoples, even though on a lower level of cul- 
tural quality. For Western civilization, ruled by the same desire 

for a high standard of living both economically and politically 
which was the downfall of the Greeks, the prospects for a con- 
tinuance of the traditional forms of their culture should conquest 
occur are considerably less hopeful, For the new barbarians pos- 
sess no sympathy for the way of life of the peoples of the West 
and are bent upon destroying not only Western social structure 
and political institutions, but the traditional system of values as 

Nor is this external danger the only one which a highly de- 

65 See above, "The Sources of Culture Change," p. 7. 

66 The Modern Dillemma, p. 37. 

[454] veloped culture like the modern West faces. The changes intro- 
duced into its way of life over the past century by the scientific 
revolution raise the question whether it is possible for the cultural 
tradition of the West to assimilate these changes, or whether they 
are so great that a new type of technological civilization must suc- 
ceed to the humanist and religious forms of the past. While 
recognizing the latter possibility, Dawson believes that the com- 
ing of such a civilization would be self-destructive, for it could 
not long maintain itself against man's deeper spiritual needs. In 
a letter to the present writer Mr. Dawson remarks: 

"I think an entirely technological culture would be an entirely 
barbarous culture. No one believes that civilization can carry on 
without some element of higher spiritual culture. . . . 

"The coming of age of technology only makes the need for Chris- 
tian culture (or some alternative religious or humanist culture) 
more imperative. Even if, per impossibile, all the spiritual tradi- 
tions of culture could be temporarily suppressed, it could only 
lead to a nihilist revolution which would destroy the technological 
order itself, as I have pointed out many times in my writings, 
Orwell's 1984 is a good picture of a pure technological order and 
the only fault I find with it is that he seems to believe it is a 
possibility. (Letter of January 29, 1955.) 

In connection with the destruction of cultural values and tra- 

ditions brought about in a society by tremendous social changes, 
whether as a result of foreign impact or of internal causes, Daw- 
son finds himself in some measure of agreement with Kroeber's 
observations on the death of a culture. 

"What seems to be actually involved in such cases [Kroeber 
writes] is the dissolution of a particular assemblage of cultural 
content, configurated in a more or less unique set of patterns 
belonging to a nation or a group of nations. Such particular 
assemblages and constellations do unquestionably "die out"; that 
is, they dissolve away, disappear, and are replaced by new ones. . . . 

"The corresponding societies, the culture-carrying groups, have 
a way of going on; much of the cultural content continues to 
exist and function somewhere, and may amplify; it is the particu- 
[455] lar set of patterned interweavings of content characterizing a 
civilization that breaks down. "67 

Thus the people themselves that possessed the culture continue 
their existence, but under different cultural patterns, and no 
longer taking so active a part, it may be, in the new patterns, 
especially if these have been brought in from outside. And in 
some cases, if Spengler is correct, there occurs a marked deteriora- 
tion in the quality of the culture, sometimes descending to the 
level of what Spengler terms "fellahin peoples." 

Dawson believes, however, that Kroeber is possibly too opti- 
mistic concerning the fate of the culture-carrying group and that 
he does not distinguish sufficiently between the mass of the peo- 
ple who accept a culture and the ruling group who have been 
responsible for introducing and preserving it. In a note on 
Kroeber's passage on the death of a culture he remarks: 

"Actually I think Kroeber overstates the case for survival I 
believe in many cases the change is accompanied by the physical 
destruction of the minority that is the bearer of the cultural tra- 
dition. This seems to have happened in the destruction of the 
French Creole element in Haiti, and the destruction or disappear- 
ance of the Latin-speaking ruling element in Roman Britain and 
Germany in the fifth century A.D. 

"The mass deportations that accompanied and followed the 
first and second world wars opened our eyes to this factor in cul- 
ture change: for example, the destruction of the Greek population 
in Anatolia after the first world war, and (I believe) the destruc- 
tion of the Tartars of the Crimea after the second." 

If this observation is correct, it would appear to lend some 
support to Spengler's view about the lower quality of the culture 
of "fellahin peoples" after the passing of a high civilization. 

However, the apparent destruction of a culture does not always 
mean the permanent loss of its cultural influence. Indeed, the 
most challenging problem arising from contacts between cultures 
is how the traditions of a conquered or subordinate people re- 
assert themselves centuries after the original encounter with their 

67 A. L. Kroeber, Anthropology, pp. 382-84. 

[456] conqueror has taken place. The most common example of this 
reassertion of the culture tradition of a subordinate people has 
occurred in the conquest of a peasant society by a nomad warrior 
aristocracy; and most of the classic civilizations in which the 
world religions appeared were creations of this type. In these 
cases the conquest was the starting point of a process of fusion 
and growth by which the two peoples and their cultural traditions 
were gradually united to produce a new cultural entity. As one 
example of this process, Dawson suggests that, if his hypothesis 
on the origins of Indian culture is correct, "We should interpret 
the rise of the classical Indian systems of thought and social 
organization as due to the reassertion of the submerged archaic 
Indian culture against the warrior culture of the Aryan in- 
vaders. "68 

Dawson believes that such an organic fusion of different cul- 
tural growths, where it occurs, is distinguished by three indentifi- 
able stages. First, there is the period of fertilization and growth, 
second, the period of progress or flowering of the hybrid creation, 
and finally there is the period of maturity, in which the new cul- 
tural entity is stabilized in patterns which endure as long as that 
culture lasts. 69 

There is nothing absolute or determined about these stages: 
first, because they do not occur in all encounters of different 
cultural traditions, even where conquest has brought two societies 
into close intimacy with each other; and secondly, because there 
is no means of predicting with assurance how much or what 
elements each people taking part in the process will contribute to 
the final product which is the stabilized form of the new culture. 

Although this pattern of three stages is most readily identifiable 
in the mixing of two different peoples to form a regional culture, 
it is possible that it may also underlie the development of civiliza- 
tions or supercultures. Here, however, the complexity of the 
cultural pattern and the number of peoples being brought into 
fertilizing contact with one another make it most difficult 

68 Religion and Culture, p. 199. 

69 Progress and Religion, p. 62; cf . also Enquiries, pp. 67-68, 71-73. 

[457] entangle the threads and identify clearly the course of its 
development. 70 

View of World History 

Although Dawson has explicitly disclaimed the possibility of 
writing at present a history truly world-wide in scope, so as to do 
proper justice to each cultural tradition, 71 there is implicit 
throughout his work a conception of the development of world 
history which we believe should be presented here, as a conclusion 
to the present essay. 

Dawson's view of the movement of world history turns upon 
the major changes which have taken place in man's view of reality 
as these have found expression in the life of particular societies 
and cultures. 

According to Dawson, there are four great world ages in the 
development of mankind, each distinguished by a different con- 
ception of the universe. The first stage is that of primitive culture; 

the second is characterized by the rise of the archaic civilizations 
in Egypt and Mesopotamia and Asia Minor; the third is marked 
by the rise and spread of the world religions; and the fourth stage 
is that which has been inaugurated by the scientific developments 
arising in Western civilization. This fourth stage, in Dawson's 
view, is closely related to the Christian conception of man and 
the universe. 

The difference between the first and second ages in world his- 
tory is the difference between the unreflective vision of reality 
held by primitive food-gatherers and hunters and the ordered 

70 In the article in Enquiries which we have cited immediately above, 
Dawson seems to apply these three stages to supercultures like Christendom, 
Islam, China, etc., and not simply to regional cultures. His latest views on 
this subject, however, are expressed in his letter of January 1, 1955 to the 
present writer, from which we have already quoted: "But on the whole I do 
not believe that civilizations have life-cycles. Peoples have, and if a culture 
is bound up with a people, then it also must. But in so far as a civilization 
becomes a superculture and is transmitted to an indefinite number of peoples, 
its development may transcend this cycle." 

71 See above, "Europe in Eclipse," pp. 405 ff. 

[458] understanding of natural laws which formed the foundation of 
the archaic culture. Of this conception of man's co-operation 
with nature's laws, from which flowed the discovery of the higher 
agriculture, the working of metals and the invention of writing 
and the calendar, Dawson observes: 

"It governed the progress of civilization for thousands of years 
and only passed away with the coming of the new vision of Reality 
which began to transform the ancient world in the fifth and sixth 
centuries B.C. — the age of the Hebrew Prophets and the Greek 
Philosophers, of Buddha and Confucius, an age which marks the 
dawn of a new world. "72 

What causes led to the change in the view of reality which 
marked the transition between the second and third great ages of 
world history? One reason lay in the limitations of the archaic 
civilization itself. In its co-operation with the processes of nature 
it had realized an enormous material progress "relatively the 

greatest perhaps the world has ever seen" says Dawson. How- 
ever, "Each culture was bound up with an absolutely fixed form 
from which it could not be separated. When once it had realized 
its potentialities, it became stationary and unprogrcssive."73 This 
resulted in so complete an identification of religion with the 
social order that both religion and culture were stifled, the former 
losing its spiritual character and the latter so restricted by the 
bonds of religious tradition "that the social organism became as 
rigid and lifeless as a mummy."74 It was against this idolatry of 
the archaic religion cultures and the denial of the transcendent 
character of spiritual reality that the great world religions rose in 

However, in their desire to emphasize the independence of the 
spirit from the material order, the world religions often erred in 
the opposite direction by teachings that were equally injurious to 
religion as a social force. Through their condemnation of matter 

72 See above, "The Sources of Culture Change," pp. 10-11 

73 Progress and Religion, pp. 117-18 

74 Religion and Culture, p. 206. 

[459] and the body as evil, their flight from nature and the world of 
sense, their denial of the reality of the world and the value of the 
social order, the new world religions tended to weaken, if not 
destroy, the bridge which the archaic civilization had built be- 
tween religion and culture. In fact, it was largely through the 
continued survival of the traditions of the archaic nature religions 
that the material civilization of the Orient was preserved. As 
Dawson remarks upon the effects of the new world religions on 
material progress: 

"The great achievements of the new culture lie in the domain of 
literature and art. But, from the material point of view, there is 
expansion rather than progress. The new culture simply gave a 
new form and a new spirit to the materials that it had received 
from the archaic civilization. In all essentials Babylonia, in the 
time of Hammurabi, and even earlier, had reached a pitch of 
material civilization which has never since been surpassed in Asia. 
After the artistic flowering of the early Middle Ages the great 

religion-cultures became stationary and even decadent. "75 

The changes that created the fourth great age in world history 
had their origins in Western Europe and cannot be understood 
without a study of the new Christian culture that had arisen in 
that area. In contrast to the cleavage between religion and culture 
which occurred to a greater or less degree in the Oriental religions, 
Christianity, through its doctrine of the Incarnation, was better 
able to reconcile the conflicting demands of the spiritual and 
material orders. The spiritual world could maintain its transcend- 
ent character and at the same time interpenetrate the world of 
man with its dynamic force. Dawson notes the effects of this upon 
the social and cultural development of Western civilization. 

"Its religious ideal has not been the worship of timeless and 
changeless perfection, but a spirit that strives to incorporate itself 
in humanity and to change the world. In the West the spiritual 
power has not been immobilized in a sacred social order like the 
Confucian State in China or the Indian caste system. It has 
acquired social freedom and autonomy, and consequently its 

75 See above, "Religion and the Life of Civilization," p. 112. 

[460] activity has not been limited to the religious sphere but has had 
far-reaching effects on every aspect of social and intellectual life. "76 

Dawson recognizes that the goal of reconciliation between the 
power of the spirit and the resisting institutions of the temporal 
order has never been adequately realized in any epoch in Western 
history. Nevertheless it has been the driving force behind the 
unique achievements of Western culture and has made that cul- 
ture a power for change in the rest of the world as well as among 
its own peoples. 

In one of his more recent essays Dawson suggests a psycho- 
logical basis for the social and material changes which Western 
civilization has inaugurated and ultimately spread to other parts 
of the world. It was through the influence of the Christian ethos 
upon the psyche of the individual person that there developed 
the new attitude toward life which became the source for the 

new culture and the tremendous social transformation that it 

"Even today very little thought is given to the profound revolu- 
tion in the psychological basis of culture by which the new society 
of Western Christendom came into existence. Stated in terms of 
Freudian psychology, what occurred was the translation of reli- 
gion from the sphere of the Id to that of the Super-Ego. 

"With the reception of Christianity, the old gods and their rites 
were rejected as manifestations of the power of evil Religion was 
no longer an instinctive homage to the dark underworld of the Id. 
It became a conscious and continual effort to conform human 
behavior to the requirements of an objective moral law and an 
act of faith in a new life and in sublimated patterns of spiritual 

But since all civilizations are essentially distinguished from 
barbarism by the greater prominence given to the Super-Ego and 
by the rational control of instinctive impulses through an ordered 
understanding of their significance, in what way does Christianity 

76 "Christianity and the New Age," in Essays in Order, by Maritain, Wust 
and Dawson (New York, 1931), pp. 228-29. 

77 Understanding Europe, pp. 14-15. 

[461] differ from the religions that form the basis of the other world 
cultures? Is not its psychological basis identical with theirs in 
asserting the superior claims of the Super-Ego against the Id? 
No, Dawson would reply, one may distinguish definite differences 
in the relationship established between these two forces in the 
moral universes of the different world religions. For example, 

"In some cases, as in Hinduism, the sharp breach with the forces 
of the Id which was characteristic of the conversion of the West 
has never taken place, and life is not conceived as a process of 
moral effort and discipline but as an expression of cosmic libido, 
as in the Dance of Siva. 

"On the other hand, in Buddhism we see a very highly developed 

Super-Ego. But here the Super-Ego is allied with the death- 
impulse so that the moralization of life is at the same time a 
regressive process that culminates in Nirvana. 78 

While Western culture has witnessed religious movements that 
show a similar tendency, as in Manicheanism and Albigensianism, 
these were but eccentric developments and not typical of the 
central Western religious tradition. The effect of this tradition 
has been to produce a different kind of personality from those 
which are representative of the other world cultures. 

"But the characteristic feature of Western civilization has always 
been a spirit of moral activism by which the individual Super-Ego 
has become a dynamic social force. In other words, the Christian 
tradition has made the conscience of the individual person an 
independent power which tends to weaken the omnipotence of 
social custom and to open the social process to new individual 
initiatives. "79 

But although this social dynamism was implicit in Christianity 
from the beginning and provided the impetus for the conversion 
of the ancient world and the transmission of Christian culture to 
new peoples through the dark ages of barbarian and Islamic in- 
vasion, it was not until the thirteenth century that its significance 
was fully understood. In the spirituality of St. Francis, in which 

78 Ibid., p. 15. 

79 Ibid., p. 16. 

[462] the spirit of Christian humanism received its most profound 
expression, in the philosophic synthesis of St. Thomas, who recon- 
ciled reason with faith and laid the foundations for a scientific 
approach to reality, and in the vision of Roger Bacon, who saw in 
scientific invention a creative social force of incalculable power, 
the new conception of reality finally reached maturity. 80 

From this point of view the importance of the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries is due to their first embodiment of Chris- 
tian culture in new dynamic social forms. For the first Christian 
culture that of the Byzantine-patristic age was the outcome of 

the application of Christian ideas to an already mature and static 
culture. And it was for this reason that the social dynamism of 
Christianity could find no adequate expression in the society and 
culture of the Byzantine Empire. 

The subsequent development of Western culture from the 
Renaissance onwards is the result of the growth of this new dy- 
namic Western Christian society and culture. For with the Ren- 
aissance there began that movement of vast expansion of West- 
ern civilization, not only geographically but also in the fields of 
science and technology, which has been the outstanding feature 
of the last four centuries of world history. By this movement the 
fourth world age reaches out to its material realization. The 
uniqueness of this epoch created by Western man is directly re- 
lated to the missionary goals implanted in the soul of the West 
by more than a thousand years of Christian teaching; the new 
culture introduced by the Renaissance had its roots especially in 
the socio-religious ideals of the medieval period. Western human- 
ism and Western science, as well as Western exploration and 
colonization, were not the quick-ripening fruits of a hothouse 
growth; they were, rather, the fruits of a millennium of cultiva- 
tion, "the results of centuries which had ploughed the virgin soil 
of the West and scattered the new seed broadcast over the face of 
the earth."81 

80 See Progress and Religion, pp. 170-76; also Medieval Essays, 
pp. 109-11 and 142-51. 

81 The Judgment of the Nations, p. 24. 

[463] Despite the interpretation which sees the Renaissance as pri- 
marily a revolt against the Christian past (a view now largely aban- 
doned by scholars,82 but still a strong influence on the thought 
of many non-historians), Dawson points out that the whole era of 
culture inaugurated by the Renaissance and continuing through 
the nineteenth century would be impossible to understand if one 
were to sever it from its Christian origins, 

"The great men of the Renaissance were spiritual men even 
when they were most deeply immersed in the temporal order. It 
was from the accumulated resources of their Christian past that 

they acquired the energy to conquer the material world and to 
create the new spiritual culture. 

"Now what I said here [in this passage written eighteen years 
ago] about the origins of the Humanist culture seems to me to be 
equally true of the age of the Enlightenment and the nineteenth 
century, when Western culture conquered and transformed the 
world. . . . 

"The activity of the Western mind, which manifested itself 
alike in scientific and technical invention as well as in geographi- 
cal discovery, was not the natural inheritance of a particular bio- 
logical type; it was the result of a long process of education which 
gradually changed the orientation of human thought and en- 
larged the possibilities of social action. "83 

Thus in Dawson's view the Western cultural development lies 
at the center of world history, and it has been the dynamic in- 
fluence of Europe and her offspring in the New World which 
has made possible the present opportunity for a world society. 
Where many contemporary philosophers of history either despair 
of the West or so berate it for its sins and shortcomings as to set 
it below the Orient in an order of moral or spiritual values (con- 
sider Mutter's Uses of the Past or Toynbee's The World and the 
West for representative examples of this trend), Dawson main- 

82 See Wallace Ferguson, The Renaissance in Historical Thought 
(Cambridge, 1948). 

83 Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, pp. 9-10. 

[464] tains that, despite its secularism and self-seeking, Western 
culture is distinguished by a moral energy and spiritual dynamism 
which it has inherited from its Christian past, and that it is this 
energy which has caused the spread of Western institutions to 
the rest of the globe and has made the other cultures part of one 
world of cultural communication. Thus it is through an under- 
standing of Europe that we can comprehend the forces that are 
shaping the destinies of the modern world, for even those move- 
ments that are in revolt against the West owe their origins to 
Western inspiration and would not have developed in the way 

they did without European influence. Dawson has remarked on 
this fact in an article written some years ago: 

"The movement of Oriental revolt against the European he- 
gemony is itself largely of Western inspiration. Its ideology is 
purely European and owes nothing to the cultural traditions of 
the peoples whom it is seeking to free. Even in the literary sphere 
the leaders of Oriental thought, as conceived in Europe, are 
themselves men of Western culture and education. The central 
fact of the whole situation of East- West relations is not the rela- 
tively weak and superficial cult of Oriental ideas in the West, but 
the incomparably more powerful and far-reaching movement of 
Occidental ideas in the East where the traditional cultures have 
been shaken to their foundations. "84 

However, the influence of the West upon the East has not 
been merely a subversive one. It has been through the efforts of 
European archaeologists and linguists that the civilizations of 
the Orient have come to recognize the greatness of their own 
history and culture and have been afforded a clearer perception of 
their own specific character. As Dawson assesses the results of 
this work of European scholarship in the last essay of the present 

"Not only did it immeasurably widen the frontiers of Western 
civilization and lay the foundations of a new understanding be- 

84 "The Revolt of the East and the Catholic Tradition" in The Dublin 
Review, V. 183, July 1928, pp. 1-14. 

[465] tween East and West, it also gave the non-European peoples a 
new understanding of their own past. Without it, the East would 
be unconscious of the greatness of its own heritage, and the 
memory of the earliest Asiatic civilizations would still be buried 
in the dust. 

"This is an enduring inheritance for the whole world, East and 
West, which will outlast political ideologies and economic em- 

Nevertheless, one cannot ignore or minimize the extent to 
which Western secular culture threatens the traditional cul- 
tures of the East. Despite the optimistic views concerning their 
future advanced by such writers as Muller and Northrop, and 
the belief of some that the Oriental religions are better suited for 
survival than Christianity in the intermingling of cultures and re- 
ligions which the present epoch is witnessing, there are signs that 
the Oriental religion-cultures have entered upon a stage of de- 
cline and retreat before secularized civilization from which they 
can recover only with difficulty. 

As a result, the Oriental religions today are in danger of be- 
ing overwhelmed by secular movements which have originated 
in Western culture. The reason for this weakness of the Oriental 
religions lies in their loss of an organic contact with the lives of 
the people. As Dawson observes in a recent article, commenting 
upon the spread of Communism in Asia, "If Communism is 
viewed in this light [i.e., as a religion], why should it prove so 
attractive to Asians who are already well provided with real 
theological religions? The answer, I think, is that the great Ori- 
ental religions are no longer culturally active and that they have 
become divorced from social life and from contemporary cul- 
ture. "86 

The precarious nature of their situation is intimated by Daw- 
son in the following passage depicting the significance of the 
present world crisis: 

85 See above, "Europe in Eclipse" pp. 411-13. 

86 "Civilization in Crisis," The Catholic World, January 1956. 

[466] "As Hellenism gradually expanded during the Hellenistic and 
Roman periods, until it embraced the whole of the ancient world, 
so too Western culture has expanded during the last five hundred 
years to embrace the whole of the modern world. And as the 
unity of the ancient world was finally broken in two by the rise 
of Islam, so the modern world is being broken in two by the rise 
of Communism. 

"Consequently I think that the great Oriental world religions 

today occupy a similar position to that of the religions of the 
ancient East Egypt, Babylonia and Asia Minor in the Roman 
World. If so, the most serious rivals to Christianity at the pres- 
ent day are not the old religions of the East, but the new political 
substitute-religions, like Communism, Nationalism and so forth. 
One cannot escape the urgency of this question, on which the 
whole future of the world depends. "87 

It is from the viewpoint of world history, comparing the pres- 
ent situation of the Oriental religions with the revolutionary de- 
velopments which attended the rise of Islam in the seventh 
century A.D., that Dawson foresees such acute danger for the 
traditional religious cultures of the East, and not for them alone, 
but for Christianity as well. 

One difference, however, that may suggest a more hopeful out- 
come on this occasion is the fact that Islam derived its dynamic 
drive from a fervently held religious belief, with sanctions in a 
supernatural order of reality, while Communism, for all its quasi- 
religious motivation, is essentially earthbound and can appeal to 
nothing higher than man's hope for a materialistic Utopia. Thus 
the power of the Oriental religions to resist the onrush of secular 
ideologies will be proportionate to their ability to maintain their 
religious character and at the same time re-establish contact with 
the daily lives of the people; whether this is possible, in the light 
of the "detachment" which Oriental religion has prominently 
displayed in the past, only the future can tell. 

For Dawson the significance of the present moment in world 

87 Letter of March 5, 1953 to the present writer, reprinted in Four 
Quarters (La Salle College quarterly, June 1954). 

[467] history lies in the fact that Western civilization, both by its 
technical inventions and its ideological impact, has been able to 
break down the barriers which previously isolated the closed cul- 
tures of the great world religions from one another and has united 
them in a new and wider intercultural society. But in this proc- 
ess of development and expansion, Western civilization has in- 
creasingly lost contact with the spiritual sources of its creative 

power. As a result, the moment of its greatest material triumph 
is also the time of its greatest spiritual crisis. 

"The events of the last few years portend either the end of 
human history or a turning point in it. They have warned us in 
letters of fire that our civilization has been tried in the balance 
and found wanting that there is an absolute limit to the prog- 
ress that can be achieved by the perfectionment of scientific 
techniques detached from spiritual aims and moial values. "88 

And yet this crisis of culture is a time in which Europe can 
fulfill the opportunity that has been granted her, in which she 
can give form and direction to the new world society now in the 
process of being born. The science and technology of which West- 
ern civilization is the creator need not become the instruments 
for the destruction of humanity, but can be employed to sub- 
serve the higher purpose of uniting mankind in a supranational 
spiritual community. 

The great Revolution of the eighteenth century which ushered 
in the modern era and overthrew the political and social struc- 
ture Europe had possessed for more than a thousand years was in 
many ways similar to the contemporary period. The armies of the 
French Revolution and later those of Napoleon undermined or 
overthrew the monarchies of the ancien regime, abolished serf- 
dom, and stirred nationalism in the hearts of almost all the peo- 
ples of Europe. In our own day the impact of European national- 
ism and Western ideologies and the spread of the European 
revolutionary tradition has had similar effects in Asia and Africa to 
that which the French Revolution had on Europe and the Amer- 

88 Religion and Culture, p. 215. 

[468] icas in the past century and a half. The ideals of political liberty 
national self-determination and social equality have spread to the 
most remote peoples of the world, until now they have becom 
practically universal in their acceptance. 

It is not inappropriate, therefore, that Christopher Dawson 
should look back to the age of the French Revolution to per- 

ceive the momentous nature of the contemporary period and it 
meaning for world history. The reaction of one of the most pro- 
found of the Conservative thinkers of that age to the revolu- 
tions that had broken into his way of life suggests the attitud 
which Dawson would commend to the peoples of the West a 
the present day. 

More than a century ago Joseph de Maistre, the last representa- 
tive of the old pre-nationalist Europe, an exile in the city of 
Peter the Great and Lenin, discerned with almost prophetic in- 
sight the meaning of the revolutions that had destroyed his own 
happiness and broken down the traditional order of European life 
which he valued so highly. France and England, he writes, in 
spite of their mutual hostility, have been led to co-operate in the 
same work. While the French Revolution sowed the seeds of 
French culture throughout Europe, England has carried Euro- 
pean culture into Asia and has caused the works of Newton to 
be read in the language of Mahomet. The whole of the East is 
yielding to the ascendancy of Europe, and events have given 
England 15,000 leagues of common frontiers with China and 
Thibet. "Man in his ignorance often deceives himself as to end 
and means, as to forces and resistance, as to instruments and ob- 
stacles. Sometimes he tries to cut down an oak with a pocket 
knife and sometimes he throws a bomb to break a reed. But Provi- 
dence never wavers and it is not in vain that it shakes the world. 
Everything proclaims that we are moving towards a great unity 
which, to use a religious expression, we must hail from afar. We 
have been grievously and justly broken, but if such eyes as mine 
are worthy to foresee the divine purpose, we have been broken 
only to be made one. "89 

89 The Modern Dilemma, pp. 33-34. 

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